Whitman’s poem is in a lot of ways an ode to barbarism, a listing of carnal pleasures and the many delights, sights, and sounds our world has to offer. It’s essentially 50+ pages of Whitman saying every damn thing he wants to say, it’s barbaric in that it feels primal, it’s as much a poem as it is a rant. While cohesive thematically on the surface level it seemingly jumps around all over the place. One second it’s all about Whitman describing grass in metaphysical detail, the next it’s about a woman watching dudes swim. A yawp indeed.
“And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.”
As Whitman tries to explain what grass is to a young boy he offers many an explanation. In this moment he almost feels like a caricature of himself, unable to give the child a straightforward answer and instead becoming lost in the infinite symbolic possibilities grass apparently represents. It’s an interesting passage for that reason alone but it’s this line that begins to reveal a more concrete (and rather macabre) interpretation of the green stuff. Whitman begins to show us our relation to the grass, he defines the grass through a humanistic eye, the grass ever growing upwards from the caskets of men and women long dead. The grass almost a rebirth but ultimately more of a reminder, a reminder of impermanence and the fickle yet never wasteful nature of… nature. Throughout the poem Walt’s narration is both objective but also deeply personal, it’s this line that I think really solidifies that point. Whitman was a man very familiar with death, as a nurse in the Civil War he had to watch many men die, he had to watch as those newborn blades of grass began their upward journey, but what he says here feels like a distant observation. He has seen the seeds plant themselves, but now they are far away, they have become something new and foreign with time. Something beautiful. Death is the great equalizer, and grass is the sum. No matter who you are, someday you’ll get to know them both quite well.
“In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.”
It’s an issue that’s plagued mankind for some time now, thought regurgitation, the blind faith we put in the words of others, the lack of faith we put in ourselves. Most of our thoughts are simply borrowed from others or worse, kept. What makes this sentence difficult is the realization that it does not just pertain to the essays context, it pertains to all possible context, as the truth generally should. Throughout the essay the author hammers home the issue with this approach, this slow burning assassination of originality. There is a certain depth of thought which has become lost with time, as we bury ourselves in books, wrapping ourselves in the paragraphs and passages of men and women long dead, we slowly nullify our ability to come up with these ideas on our own. We should be using these things to enrich our knowledge, to help us find our own opinions, to help us give voice to the thoughts buzzing around heads, instead we take this knowledge and internalize it, we don’t use it to gain a new perspective, we simply appropriate it and pretend it’s been ours the whole time. Man becomes the victim of society because he makes no effort to escape.
My name is Will Bishop, and I’d like to formally welcome you to my blog, a magical place full of words, wonderment and all manner of other things beginning with the letter W. Seeing as blogs are (at least in theory) somewhat personal things, I guess I ought to tell you something about myself other than my name. Well I’m from a small town in Northern California called Weaverville, frequently confused with the nonexistent town of Beaverville due to the common man’s inability to distinguish B’s from W’s. Now of course living in a town like this meant that I had very little to do the vast majority of the time. I watched a lot of movies, played a lot of video games and did plenty of other stereotypical “lazy teenager” things. Up till this point I’ve lived an uneventful yet relatively entertaining life that I suppose I ought to be fairly happy with, at least it made me quippy. To sum myself up in one sentence I give you this: “Fight Club is my favorite movie but nothing quite gets me like listening to Sam Cooke.” Make of that what you will.