An episode from 4/19/22: From the opening line of the Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman announced that his great theme was unity: “I celebrate myself,/And what I assume you shall assume,/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” As the last two episodes show, his best poems on both love and death rise up out of this central belief in humanity’s unity with nature and the animal world, and our unity as a human species, which crosses all barriers of race, religion, and belief. And finally, in perhaps his best poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” that unity extends from the past, the present, and into the future.
Tonight, then, I read the best of Whitman’s poems in this vein, which (for lack of a better word) I have simply called “mystical.” All of the poems can be found in the two recent books I edited, The Selected Short Poems of Walt Whitman, and The Selected Long Poems of Walt Whitman.
- Selections from “Song of Myself”
- Earth, My Likeness
- Full of Life Now
- To a Common Prostitute
- Mother and Babe
- O Me! O Life!
- Sparkles from the Wheel
- To Thee Old Cause!
- A Clear Midnight
- From Montauk Point
- L. of G.’s Purport
- Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun
- Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (1:08:00)
- Song of the Open Road (1:26:00) A Song of the Rolling Earth (1:48:53)
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