Friday, July 4, 2008

This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful

In addition to being the anniversary of the first telling of Alice in Wonderland, July 4th is also the anniversary of the first publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in 1855. Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, continually revising it until his death in 1892. While the book is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest work of American poetry, the truth is that the book celebrates the glory of individuals much more than the innate goodness of any nation. As he notes in a poem from the first edition: "All doctrines, all politics and civilization exurge from you, all sculpture and monuments and anything inscribed anywhere are tallied in you... If you were not breathing and walking here where would they all be?"

This poem adopts that characteristic and less celebrated note from Leaves of Grass. Transcending petty patriotism, Whitman looks beyond America's shores to sing about the inherent beauty of all people.

This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful

THIS moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,
It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and thoughtful,
It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany, Italy, France, Spain,
Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or talking other dialects,
And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become
attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,
O I know we should be brethren and lovers,
I know I should be happy with them.

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