An Evangelical Pilgrimage
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Walt Whitman :: On Journeys through the States

Walt Whitman's Beard

Portland, OR :: One of the most difficult decisions I need to make in preparation for our trip is which books to take with me on the road. As I pack up my library, I have been setting some books aside; I am in essence determining now what I will read over the next twelve months. Right now I have five boxes of books I want to bring.

I initially considered bringing just four or five big books, but this terrifies me in a way I can’t quite explain. The books were “Democracy in America,” “Home Ground,” an encyclopedia of the American landscape edited by Barry Lopez, and the Library of America collected works of Flannery O’Connor, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.

I read the following poem while sitting on the beach at Cape Disappointment, Washington. It’s from the deathbed edition of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” I think it is a good first poem to post on the blog.

“On Journeys through the States”

On journeys through the States we start,
(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,
Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.

We have watch’d the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,
And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the seasons, and effuse as much?

We dwell a while in every city and town,
We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the Mississippi, and the Southern States,
We confer on equal terms with each of the States,
We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear,
We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the body and the soul,
Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic,
And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return,
And may be just as much as the seasons.

September 5, 2009   5 Comments