Quote for the Day: Walt Whitman on love and swagger

I do not thank you for liking me as I am, and liking the touch of me….I know that it is good for you to do so.

– Walt Whitman, from “A Song for Occupations.”

My god!, this Whitman poetry is good stuff! I told someone recently that Whitman is the perfect antidote for me to feelings of superiority or creeping cynicism about human nature. Many of his poems are lists reveling point by point in diverse instances of the beauty and dignity of humanity. “A Song of Occupations” is one such poem. The above self-regard (translation: “You know you want a piece of this.”) extends from his over-flowing, universal regard for all people – including his own person. People are always more important than ideas to Whitman, for instance (emphasis my own):

We thought our Union grand and our Constitution grand;/ I do not say they are not grand and good – for they are,/I am this day just as much in love with them as you,/But I am eternally in love with all my fellows upon the earth.

We consider the bibles and religions divine….I do not say they are not divine,/I say they have all grown out of you and may grow out of you still,/It is not they who give life….it is you who give the life;/Leaves are not more shed from the trees or trees from the earth than they are shed out of you.

The sum of all known value and respect I add up in you whoever you are;/The President is up there in the White House for you….it is not you who are here for him,/The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you….not you here for them,/The Congress convenes every December for you,/Laws, courts, the forming of states, the charter of cities, the going and forth of commerce and mails are all for you.

All doctrines, all politics and civilizations exurge from you,/All sculpture and monuments and anything inscribed anywhere are tallied in you,/The gist of histories and statistics as far back as the records reach is in you this hour – and myths and tales the same…

All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it

All music is what awakens from you when you are reminded by the instruments…

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