Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TUESDAY POEM | Who Learns My Lessons Complete? by Walt Whitman

CB | Light Calligraphy

                    Who learns my lesson complete?
                     Boss, journeyman, apprentice, churchman and atheist,
                     The stupid and the wise thinker, parents and offspring, merchant,
                     clerk, porter and customer,
                     Editor, author, artist, and schoolboy--draw nigh and commence;
                     It is no lesson--it lets down the bars to a good lesson,
                     And that to another, and every one to another still.
                     The great laws take and effuse without argument,
                     I am of the same style, for I am their friend,
                     I love them quits and quits, I do not halt and make salaams.
                     I lie abstracted and hear beautiful tales of things and the reasons
                     of things,
                     They are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen.
                     I cannot say to any person what I hear--I cannot say it to myself--
                     it is very wonderful.
                     It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe moving so
                     exactly in its orbit for ever and ever, without one jolt or
                     the untruth of a single second,
                     I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand years,
                     nor ten billions of years,
                     Nor plann'd and built one thing after another as an architect plans
                     and builds a house.
                     I do not think seventy years is the time of a man or woman,
                     Nor that seventy millions of years is the time of a man or woman,
                     Nor that years will ever stop the existence of me, or any one else.
                     Is it wonderful that I should be immortal? as every one is immortal;
                     I know it is wonderful, but my eyesight is equally wonderful, and
                     how I was conceived in my mother's womb is equally wonderful,
                     And pass'd from a babe in the creeping trance of a couple of
                     summers and winters to articulate and walk--all this is
                     equally wonderful.
                     And that my soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other
                     without ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see
                     each other, is every bit as wonderful.
                     And that I can think such thoughts as these is just as wonderful,
                     And that I can remind you, and you think them and know them to
                     be true, is just as wonderful.
                     And that the moon spins round the earth and on with the earth, is
                     equally wonderful,
                     And that they balance themselves with the sun and stars is equally

                     Walt Whitman

To read this week's Tuesday Poems, click on the quill then make your way down the list of poets on the Left-hand side of the TP page. Zireaux is this week's editor. Bonzai by Cecily Barnes begins -  

                     Who needs your stunted style, your tiny jewels
                     of thwarted art, to snatch a kite flown loose
                     or bad-thrown ball? Or your unsayable rules
                     of infinite pleasures unknown, delights abstruse,
                     to feel soft feathers, their talons' sponsal band? . . .

Zireaux's commentary is anything but stunted! He takes the reader on what I think you'll agree is a fair romp of personal disclosure.


  1. Wonderful poem, Claire. Have always admired Whitman's cataloging technique, mirrored in Melville, and most recently and brilliantly mastered by the late literary critic, John Leonard. But it's the "myself" of Whitman that is so innocent and playful, a child let free in the greatest museum ever imagined -- the universe itself -- "nudging myself," stripping naked in the sun. Has any other poetry contained as much unbridled love? - Zireaux

    1. Hello Zireaux - how happy I am to find word from you here. Thank you for visiting.

      I've been considering what our dear friend Melissa might call the 'felth and texture' of these and other Whitman words. What, I wonder, do you hear/see/feel or understand when you read these ones - "I sing the body electric'? Truly, I am interested to know.

      As to whether any other poetry has contained as much unbridled love as his? He invites us to celebrate ourselves in all our jagged and holy imperfection. I am immensely grateful to him for that.

    2. Recently there was a Senator here, a Scott Ludlam, who spoke to a near empty Senate chamber about the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. You can see the video here - http://tinyurl.com/k98z2nc. His words were scripted, laden, clunky, smeared with sarcasm, but they were able to express what many people felt about Abbott, yet which for some reason -- remarkably -- nobody had wanted to express. At least not publicly. (This was weeks before the recent "March in March" protests, and may have helped spark those protests). It was as if something -- some creeping complacency, some lack of feeling -- had been preventing such words from being born, and then, suddenly, wake up, there they were.

      Of course, this often happens in politics, and politics is trivial compared to poetry. But art, too, can grow unfeeling, dull, unaware of its own complacency, and in my mind "I sing the body electric" is the greatest defibrillation ever penned in the English language. It is the cry not just of a newly born and naked America, but of a newly born and naked poetry. Snapping us awake. Giving life and language a new birth. Elecstacy. Freedom, nakedness in the vibrating sun.

  2. Claire-

    thanks for this, I had not read it before and of course I love Whitman and reading him, reading this in particular, has lifted my own heart from a slough of some darkness.

    hope you are well and happy, you certainly gave me some happiness today.

    1. Scott, hello. Would you believe I was on your blog reading your latest post at the exact same time you were here reading Whitman's poem? I have not leave a message for you yet but am ever so glad you've returned to write and share your insights after your 'necessary' and inwardly productive time away. I, too, have spent a fair while roaming the shadowlands this past while, wrestling my way towards new understandings, esp. re; the concept of 'constructive suffering'. I have been humbled to discover how easy it is to 'model' compassion and how difficult it is to truly embody it, both towards oneself and towards others. In the midst of all this, I am well and - as T in Seattle said recently - learning to hold sorrow and joy with an open heart and in the same hand. It is comforting, is it not, to know that even while we must walk some parts of this road alone, we are ever-accompanied, too.

      Thank you for visiting. I am so very glad you are back.

  3. "And that my soul embraces you this hour, and we affect each other
    without ever seeing each other, and never perhaps to see
    each other, is every bit as wonderful."

    Ah blogging....and people I will only meet in this way. What a blessing!