Monday, July 03, 2006

Whitman as Scripture

More Whitman--every time I plunge back into "Song of Myself" the more it takes on a religious tenor and force. At times it feels so much like reading the Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur liturgy, so much like the mystical texts of various religions:

My left hand hooks you round the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and a plain public road.

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far . . . . it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know,
Perhaps it is every where on water and on land.

[ . . . ]

And I said to my spirit, When we become the enfolders of those
orbs and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them,
shall we be filled and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No, we level that lift to pass and continue beyond.

You are also asking me questions, and I hear you;
I answer that I cannot answer. . . . you must find out for yourself.

Sit awhile wayfarer,
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes I will
certainly kiss you with my goodbye kiss and open the gate for
your egress hence.

Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every
moment of your life.

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