Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman!

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, and would be delighted to know that there are 222,000 results listed on Google when simply entering the words "Walt Whitman's birthday."

Below is an excerpt from his magnificent poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:"


These and all else were to me the same as they are to you,
I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river,
The men and women I saw were all near to me,
Others the same--others who look back on me because I look'd
forward to them,
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.)


What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?

Whatever it is, it avails not--distance avails not, and place avails
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk'd the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the
waters around it,
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came
upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
I too had receiv'd identity by my body,
That I was I knew was of my body, and what I should be I knew
I should be of my body."

and what a body of work you left, Walt, who quickly outgrew mortality even. Happy Birthday, my hero, and America's hero, too.