<6> A boy said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands (from Song of Myself)by Walt Whitman

A boy sassist What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands,How could I answer the child? I carry out not know what it is any kind of even more than he.I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may check out and also renote, and say Whose?Or I guess the grass is itself a son, the created babe of the vegetation.

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Or I guess it is a unicreate hieroglyphic,And it indicates, Sprouting afavor in broad areas and also narrowhead areas,Growing among babsence folks as among white,Canuck, Tuckahoe, Congressguy, Cuff, I give them the very same, I receive them the same.

And currently it appears to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.Tenderly will certainly I use you curling grass,It might be you transpire from the breasts of young males,It might be if I had known them I would have actually loved them,It might be you are from old civilization, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,And right here you are the mothers’ laps.This grass is exceptionally dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,Darker than the colormuch less beards of old males,Dark to come from under the faint red roof of mouths.O I perceive after all so many type of uttering tongues,And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.I wish I might interpret the clues around the dead young guys and women,And the ideas about old males and also mothers, and also the offspring taken soon out of their laps.What perform you think has come to be of the young and also old men?And what carry out you think has actually end up being of the woguys and children?They are alive and also well somewhere,The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,And if ever tright here was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,And ceased the moment life showed up.All goes onward and also outside, nothing collapses,And to die is various from what anyone expected, and also luckier.

— from Track of Myself, by Walt Whitman

/ Photograph by NJ /

Whitman’s meditation on grass. I deserve to tell, a couple of of you are rolling your eyes. After all, it’s just… well, grass. The same green plant bordering eincredibly subcity home, and growing tall in eincredibly area and hillside everywhere the people. We tcheck out on it eexceptionally day. We understand what grass is: it’s forgettable.

Not so, says Whitman. We think we understand what grass is and remajor ignorant. It’s simple via familiarity to come to be blind. We see a lawn, mentally label it as “grass,” and never before really look or bother to know this plant through which we share so a lot of the human being.

This is what is so startling and refreshing about Whitman’s opening line–

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me via full hands,How can I answer the child? I carry out not know what it is any type of even more than he.

This seems to me the many hocolony response. Many human being presume they know exactly what grass is and also deserve to therefore dismiss it from their awareness. But the poet correctly sees in it a huge, living mystery to be taken into consideration.

With Whitman we ask, what is grass really?

It is green hope. It is a handkerchief flirtatiously dropped by God to attract our thoughts to the lovely Face. It is the “babe of vegetation,” the embodiment of brand-new life and brand-new development in the plant world.

It is a hieroglyphic, a message layered through covert meaning. It is a universal teaching encoded in life itself: Like the world’s green grasses, we have to offer generously of ourselves, equally to high and low, without regard to race or nation. Like the grass, it is our nature to grow and to be existing, to share our life in eextremely land also and landscape.

Then Whitman enters an extended meditation on how grass connects life and death–

And now it appears to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves…It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men…

Why this gloomy turn? He doesn’t simply imagine the tombs of the elderly, civilization that had actually lived a complete meacertain of life, however he sees as well the graves of young males also babies “taken quickly out of their mothers’ laps.” It is crucial to remember that Whitman is creating in the aftermath of the Amerideserve to Civil War. In fact, during the battle, he worked in the New York hospitals. He well knew the unromantic realities of battle, exactly how the young are sacrificed, the loss of a whole generation.

But you alert below, and also somewhere else in his poeattempt, he provides room even for suffering and violence and also death in his approach. While he plainly has actually a compassionate heart, he doesn’t ssuggest label some experiences as unsimply which he will certainly then heroically oppose. Instead, it is as if he watches it all — the beauty and also the experiencing, everything — unfolding… within himself. It is all him; it is all in the scope of his being. Doing this, he accomplishes a truly courageous feat: integration.

Thstormy that integration, we get a brand-new vision. We check out not life through its end in death, but a living, organic circulation of life coming to be life coming to be life, a perpetual vision of self-renewal. And the grass is the embodiment of this process.

While the dead lie beneath the ground, this green life grows from their now quiet bodies, nourimelted by their really hopes. From the dead comes such pure, breakable brand-new life.

Though there is definitely much to be mourned in Whitman’s magazine of the dead, personally I discover it profoundly healing. The grass, the expansion of brand-new life, seems to draw also the many “wrongful” fatality into a realm of wholeness and also continuity. This vision, which has made room for death, yet construed it as part of a better unfolding of life, welcomes us earlier right into the family members of life. Is it weird to say that?

The smallest sprout mirrors tbelow is really no death.

Don’t you love that line?

All goes onward and exterior, nothing collapses,And to die is different from what anyone meant, and also luckier.

That last line, every time I review it I am brought to a halt, ready to laugh out loud. What is he saying? “To die is different from what anyone meant, and also luckier.”

This whole poem has actually been his monitoring of how life renews itself, also through death. But below Whitman seems to be implying somepoint even more individual and also open-finished, as if his meditation has actually led him to the awareness that fatality is a kind of initiation right into a more comprehensive participation in visibility. He doesn’t seem to espouse a simplistic idea of life after death, however he absolutely means a extension of awareness beyond death. What execute you think he intended? Or did he intfinish a certain definition at all? Maybe it’s more of a teasing, Zen-favor riddle that doesn’t sell a response so a lot as a pathway of questioning…

Walt Whitman

US (1819 – 1892) TimelineSecular or Eclectic : Transcendentalist

Born on May 31, 1819, Walt Whitguy was the second boy of Wtransform Whitmale, a housebuilder, and also Louisa Van Velsor. The family, which had nine youngsters, resided in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and also 1830s. At the age of twelve Whitman began to learn the printer’s profession, and also fell in love via the created word. Largely self-taught, he check out voraciously, ending up being acquainted through the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Holy bible. Whitman operated as a printer in New York City until a destructive fire in the printing district demolimelted the sector. In 1836, at the age of 17, he started his career as teacher in the one-room college dwellings of Long Island. He ongoing to teach till 1841, as soon as he turned to journalism as a permanent career. He founded a weekly newspaper, Long-Islander, and later edited a number of Brooklyn and also New York files. In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become editor of the New Orleans Crescent. It remained in New Orleans that he proficient at initially hand the viciousness of slavery in the slave sectors of that city.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitmale vowed to live a “purged” and “cleansed” life. He created freelance journalism and also checked out the wounded at New York-location hospitals. He then travecaused Washington, D.C. in December 1862 to care for his brother that had been wounded in the battle. Overcome by the experiencing of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to remain and job-related in the hospitals. Whitman continued to be in the city for elalso years. He took a project as a clerk for the Department of the Interior, which ended once the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, uncovered that Whitman was the writer of Leaves of Grass, which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet.

Whitguy struggresulted in support himself via most of his life. In Washington he lived on a clerk’s salary and modest royalties, and invested any excess money, including presents from friends, to buy provides for the patients he nursed. He had likewise been sfinishing money to his widowed mom and also an invalid brother. From time to time authors both in the states and in England also sent him “purses” of money so that he might obtain by.

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In the early on 1870s, Whitmale settled in Camden, wright here he had actually come to visit his dying mother at his brother’s house. However before, after suffering a stroke, Whitguy uncovered it impossible to return to Washington. He continued to be with his brvarious other till the 1882 publication of Leaves of Grass offered Whitmale sufficient money to buy a home in Camden. In the easy two-story clapboard residence, Whitman spent his decreasing years functioning on enhancements and revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems and also prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891). After his fatality on March 26, 1892, Whitman was hidden in a tomb he designed and had actually developed on a lot in Harleigh Cemetery.