FULL OF LIFE, NOW.
by Walt Whitman
FULL of life, now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the Eighty-third Year of The States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries
To you, yet unborn, these seeking you.
When you read these, I, that was visible, am become
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems,
Fancying how happy you (are), if I could be with you,
and become your loving comrade;
Be it, as if I were with you. Be not too certain, but I
am now with you.
I admit that I deleted my first commentary on this blog post. In rereading, it felt ponderous and overbearing. Maybe the trick to discussing eternity is brevity?
The upshot of what I was trying to say is simply this: All creative acts are in of themselves a type of eternal life and resurrection for their creator. Their creativity takes its own trajectory once it comes into the world. Whitman’s poems and particularly Song of Myself have always felt to me like his gospel, his new testament. Full of Life, Now is Whitman’s call to worship and Song of Myself his parables and benediction.
Song of Myself is a daunting poem, hard to wade through and unpack because of its ferocity. But there are poignant passages of respite contained within for me, where my fullness of understanding is complete and those passages of clarity bring light to the whole of it.
The ending of Song of Myself I consider to be one of the greatest achievements in American Literature, an unfettered acceptance of life and death as ever I have read.
Do I contradict myself? Well then, I contradict myself. That’s poetry’s genius.
Song of Myself (Excerpt)
by Walt Whitman
The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass (: Norton, 1973)