Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is one of Whitman’s most anthologized works, and not without good reason. It is one of the shortest, most succinct statements of his poetic vision, but it can also be read as a justification of art itself. It attempts to show how common experiences and our perception of those experiences, as conveyed by the artist, unite us no matter who we are, where we are, or when we live.

On its simplest level it suggest how art can give us a sense of commonality with an artist, or a people, who have been dead for thousand of years. On a higher level, it argues that we are all united through Nature, the Oversoul, precisely because we are all suspended in this “eternal float of solution.”

1

FLOOD-TIDE below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose;
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

Whitman begins tying together Nature (fast-flowing water, clouds, sunrise), the people crossing on the ferry boat, and the people who will be crossing on ferry boats in the future. At this point it is the motion that most links them, the moving water equating to the people moving on the water.

2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day;
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme—myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme:
The similitudes of the past, and those of the future;
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings—on the walk in the street, and the passage over the river;
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away;
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them;
The certainty of others—the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore;
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide;
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east;
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high;
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

We are all sustained by these things, though we are but part of the scheme of things, not the whole. These beautiful sights that sustain us, these “glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings,” are shared by the poet and the “others that are to follow.” Fifty years or even many hundreds of years later, other people will share exactly this same experience when they board the ferry and make the same trip. They, too, will share the beauty of the sunset and the flood-tide of the water. Sharing this beauty irrevocably ties us together.

3

It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence;
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how it is.

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood, yet was hurried;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river, the sun half an hour high;
I watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls—I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.

I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light around the shape of my head in the sun-lit water,
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and southwestward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the arriving ships,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops—saw the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging, or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their pilot-houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sun-set,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls of the granite store-houses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank’d on each side by the barges—the hay-boat, the belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore, the fires from the foundry chimneys burning high and glaringly into the night,
Casting their flicker of black, contrasted with wild red and yellow light, over the tops of houses, and down into the clefts of streets.

Neither time, nor place, nor distance can separate the poet from those who share the same experience. We are tied together by our shared feelings when we look at the river and sky, when we stand on deck fascinated by the fast flowing water, and when we lookup at the seagulls circling overhead. And amidst all this beauty if we look carefully enough we can see our reflection in the water and see “the fine centrifugal spokes of light around the shape of my head in the sun-lit water,” a virtual “halo,” our own aura of glory. Our common experience of all the things that make up this ride tie use together.

4

These, and all else, were to me the same as they are to you;
I project myself a moment to tell you—also I return.

I loved well those cities;
I loved well the stately and rapid river;
The men and women I saw were all near to me;
Others the same—others who look back on me, because I look’d forward to them;
(The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.)

In case you missed it, or even if you didn’t, “These, and all else, were to me the same as they are to you.”

5

What is it, then, between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not.

Even hundreds of years cannot truly separate us.

6

I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine;
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it;
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.

I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution;
I too had receiv’d identity by my Body;
That I was, I knew was of my body—and what I should be, I knew I should be of my body.

We have both felt the same questions about who we are and about our universe. We both were born and thereby separated from the Oversoul, the “float forever held in solution,” forced to identify with this body, not with the eternal Oversoul.

7

It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw patches down upon me also;
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious;
My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre? would not people laugh at me?

It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil;
I am he who knew what it was to be evil;
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant;
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting.

What’s more, we both have fallen upon dark times and shared evil thoughts, “knitted the old knot of contrariety,” and done things we are ashamed to admit.

8

But I was Manhattanese, friendly and proud!
I was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street, or ferry-boat, or public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.

Whitman, too, was friendly and outgoing, playing “the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,” the role that makes us question who we really are.

9

Closer yet I approach you;
What thought you have of me, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance;
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.

Who was to know what should come home to me?
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?

It is not you alone, nor I alone;
Not a few races, nor a few generations, nor a few centuries;
It is that each came, or comes, or shall come, from its due emission,
From the general centre of all, and forming a part of all:
Everything indicates—the smallest does, and the largest does;
A necessary film envelopes all, and envelopes the Soul for a proper time.

Whitman, in writing this poem, has thought as much about you as you now think about Whitman. Perhaps somewhere Whitman is still enjoying the fact that you are reading his poem. It is not just Whitman and you who come together, though, for everyone comes from the “general centre of all” enveloped by a “necessary film.”

10

Now I am curious what sight can ever be more stately and admirable to me than my mast-hemm’d Manhattan,
My river and sun-set, and my scallop-edg’d waves of flood-tide,
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter;
Curious what Gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with voices I love call me promptly and loudly by my nighest name as I approach;
Curious what is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face,
Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you.

We understand, then, do we not?
What I promis’d without mentioning it, have you not accepted?
What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not accomplish, is accomplish’d, is it not?
What the push of reading could not start, is started by me personally, is it not?

Nothing could be more wonderful to Whitman than this scene crossing to Brooklyn, this scene that ties him to each of us. Now, by truly sharing this scene with Whitman, you too are forever linked to him, linked to him in a way that explanations and sermons could never convey, linked to him in the same way you are to any great artist who portrays a beautiful moment you have shared with him.

11

Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me;
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house, or street, or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small, according as one makes it!

Consider, you who peruse me, whether I may not in unknown ways be looking upon you;
Be firm, rail over the river, to support those who lean idly, yet haste with the hasting current;
Fly on, sea-birds! fly sideways, or wheel in large circles high in the air;
Receive the summer sky, you water! and faithfully hold it, till all downcast eyes have time to take it from you;
Diverge, fine spokes of light, from the shape of my head, or any one’s head, in the sun-lit water;
Come on, ships from the lower bay! pass up or down, white-sail’d schooners, sloops, lighters!
Flaunt away, flags of all nations! be duly lower’d at sunset;
Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at nightfall! cast red and yellow light over the tops of the houses;
Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are;
You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul;
About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our divinest aromas;
Thrive, cities! bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and sufficient rivers;
Expand, being than which none else is perhaps more spiritual;
Keep your places, objects than which none else is more lasting.

Turning back at the river once again, Whitman reaffirms the beauty that ties us together and urges “the baffled and curious brain” to continue to question, knowing that intellect alone can never understand the truths that have been revealed here. Go back to your everyday life, but consider whether Whitman may not “in unknown ways” still be sharing this experience with you, for it is this experience itself that lies at the heart of our realization that we are one.

12

We descend upon you and all things—we arrest you all;
We realize the soul only by you, you faithful solids and fluids;
Through you color, form, location, sublimity, ideality;
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the suggestions and determinations of ourselves.

You have waited, you always wait, you dumb, beautiful ministers! you novices!
We receive you with free sense at last, and are insatiate henceforward;
Not you any more shall be able to foil us, or withhold yourselves from us;
We use you, and do not cast you aside—we plant you permanently within us;
We fathom you not—we love you—there is perfection in you also;
You furnish your parts toward eternity;
Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.

All these things we see are really “dumb ministers,” silent conveyers of the Oversoul through their beauty. Once we have seen them truly for what they are, signs of the infinite universe, we can never get enough of them and can never again be fooled into believing they are just material objects. Though we do not understand them, we carry them with us forever as they carry us towards eternity.

Loren Webster

Sands at Seventy

I sometimes hesitate to pick up Whitman’s poetry because it’s difficult to get into it easily. For one thing, too many of his poems are long poems, and, if the truth be known, I dislike long poems with a few, but very few, notable exceptions.

Second, I have to force myself to wade through many of his poems. For one reason or another, they just don’t appeal to me. Too many of them seem to go on and on, perhaps reminding me of the Old Testament’s long lists that soon become meaningless.

There is another, very different reason I hesitate to pick him up, though. Once I do start reading him I find it difficult to put him down. Every time I pick him up, I find another poem I like very much, a poem I don’t even remember reading before. There is always something new to find in Whitman.

Some have criticized Whitman because he is overly optimistic. And, as pointed out by Emerson in his essay on transcendentalists, transcendentalists are “idealists.” Idealism by its very nature would probably be described as overly optimistic. Personally, though, I consider it nearly a blessed miracle that anyone coming from Whitman’s background could exhibit such enthusiasm for life.

R.W.B. Lewis points out that “Two of Whitman’s brothers were diseased, one of them eventually dying in an insane asylum and the other (who was also a drunkard) married to a woman who became a prostitute. Yet another brother was a congenital idiot; and one of Whitman’s sisters suffered from severe nervous melancholy.”

It may well be that Whitman himself showed signs of being a manic-depressive, but it sometimes occurs to me living in this modern age that that may well be the only rational approach to an age that offers so much and ends up delivering so little, an age that allows us to nearly instantaneously visit all the wonders of the world while it steadily destroys them, an age that encourages us to indulge every whim and in doing so ends up debasing our very souls.

So, the charge of being overly optimistic may be justified in Whitman’s most popular poems, but, in fact, some of Whitman’s greatest poems, like “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” focus on life’s sorrow, not on his vision of self enlightenment.

“I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing” is one of the “new” poems I found while reading Whitman this time. I guess it has become relatively popular in some circles, though I doubt those circles include high school texts, because it is offered as proof of Whitman’s love for another man. That seems like old news to me, and largely irrelevant, but I like the poem because it reminds me of my own loneliness at times in life and of our need for others:

I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it stood there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wondered how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend or lover near,
I know very well I could not.

The simple picture of a mighty oak standing alone in a field is one that most people can identify with and is a familiar symbol of strength, but it takes on added dimension when we think of it as a symbol of a man standing alone. It would, indeed, take a strong person to go on being joyous in life while living in isolation. Perhaps it is admirable to stand alone, but most of us long for companionship, unwilling to stand alone. The narrator’s loneliness seems clear in lines like “It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends, / (For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,) and in the final irony of the last lines “Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend or lover near, /I know very well I could not.” since Whitman probably had to deny such friendship in order to remain viable as a poet in the 19th Century.

And in some of Whitman’s last poems in the section entitled “Sands at Seventy” we find even more signs that even Whitman’s enthusiasm was subject to life’s trials and tribulations just as our life is:

AS I SIT WRITING HERE.

AS I sit writing here, sick and grown old,
Not my least burden is that dulness of the years, querilities,
Ungracious glooms, aches, lethargy, constipation, whimpering
ennui,
May filter in my daily songs.

Sounds to me a lot like an old man writing a blog and trying desperately to be interesting even when there’s little of interest happening. To expect not to have these feelings, though, would be the surest sign of delusion.

“To Those Who’ve Fail’d” reminds me a lot of Emily Dickinson’s more famous “Success is counted sweetest:"

TO THOSE WHO'VE FAIL'D.

TO those who've fail'd, in aspiration vast,
To unnam'd soldiers fallen in front on the lead,
To calm, devoted engineers- to over-ardent travelers- to pilots on
their ships,
To many a lofty song and picture without recognition- I'd rear
laurel-cover'd monument,
High, high above the rest- To all cut off before their time,
Possess'd by some strange spirit of fire,
Quench'd by an early death.

Perhaps “in aspiration vast” even refers to Whitman himself, for his life’s work Leaves of Grass never attained the acclaim he dreamed of, but at the very least it’s recognition of those who have failed though their dreams were high, recognition that failure is at least as real a possibility as success.

“Halcyon Days,” though, recognizes that despite unsuccessful love, despite a lack of wealth and honor, despite a lack of victories in politics or war, there are moments in old age when life is still blissful. These summer days in our winter of discontent probably seem happiest of all precisely because they follow days of “glooms, aches, lethargy, constipation, whimpering ennui.” Perhaps they are happy days due to the simple recognition that a life lived to the fullest provides its own reward.

HALCYON DAYS.

NOT from successful love alone,
Nor wealth, nor honor'd middle age, nor victories of politics or
war;
But as life wanes, and all the turbulent passions calm,
As gorgeous, vapory, silent hues cover the evening sky,
As softness, fulness, rest, suffuse the frame, like freshier, balmier
air,
As the days take on a mellower light, and the apple at last hangs
really finish'd and indolent-ripe on the tree,
Then for the teeming quietest, happiest days of all!
The brooding and blissful halcyon days!

Loren Webster

Behold this Compost! Behold it Well!

One of my favorite Whitman poems is “This Compost” published in the second edition of Leaves of Grass, one year after the original version. Perhaps I’m so fond of it merely because it is a metaphor I like to use in my own life. When things go bad, or relationships fail, I like to think that those things go in the compost heap of life to create better soil for future relationships, for nothing you learn from is ever truly wasted.

Ever since I studied organic gardening and started a compost heap, I’ve been amazed with the regenerative power of nature. Life and death are wrapped together in Nature’s regenerative cycle:

1

SOMETHING startles me where I thought I was safest;
I withdraw from the still woods I loved;
I will not go now on the pastures to walk;
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea;
I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other flesh, to renew me

O how can it be that the ground does not sicken?
How can you be alive, you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper’d corpses within you?
Is not every continent work’d over and over with sour dead?

Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations;
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day—or perhaps I am deceiv’d;
I will run a furrow with my plough—I will press my spade through the sod, and turn it up underneath;
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.


2

Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person—Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noislessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear—the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk—the lilacs bloom in the door-yards;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.

What chemistry!
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever.
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the orange-orchard—that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once a catching disease.


3

Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.

Perhaps out of fear, we ignore how much death is a part of life. As Whitman points out, we are surrounded by death. The ground is strewn with corpses, whether corpses of people, animals, or plants. It’s doubtful that a square inch of land has escaped this inevitability. If death were as awful as we would make it out to be, the world would, indeed, be irrevocably polluted. Whitman effectively uses the words we commonly use to describe death, words like “carcasses,” “foul liquid and meat,” “sour dead” to recreate our disgust at death.

Why doesn’t the land sicken with so many corpses? How have they all been disposed of? Where have all the foul elements gone? Surely, if one were to turn over the soil one could find some sign of these foul elements.

Instead, the soil has been turned into a fine compost, a compost that makes all things thrive rather than wilt. Winter’s deaths serve as nutrients for this year’s spring as Whitman shows with a series of images of spring and early summer. The new wheat emerges through the chaff of the old wheat. The bean emerges through the garden mold. The summer growth is pure, no matter what the source.

Though many have forgotten the value of compost, nature’s chemistry is at work constantly renewing the earth. Given time, even polluted waters become clean and fresh. The very fruit of the earth is proof of the earth’s bounty despite man’s leavings. The leaves of grass grow lusher where last year’s corpses fell.

Perhaps the real miracle is that man is not terrified, not Awe-struck, by the earth’s ability to convert such wastes to new life. Perhaps, though, it is the “job” of poets like Whitman and Hopkins to make us see the miracle of rebirth. Whitman’s image of an earth turning “harmless and stainless on its axis” seems to foreshadow the shots from space that later helped to promote the Gaia project, though such a project was inspired not from Whitman’s faith that the earth will eternally restore itself, but from fear that man’s leavings will eventually overwhelm the ecosystem that makes such “divine materials” possible.

There’s a fine line between hope and despair. Environmentalists like myself are often driven to despair by the apparently irreparable damage that modern man has done to the earth. Without the inspiration of poets like Whitman we might well just give ourselves up to that despair. But the optimism, idealism, if you will, gives us the faith that we need to keep up the battle to save the environment before it is too late.

Loren Webster

All Truths Wait in All Things

Perhaps one of Whitman’s greatest descriptions of man’s connection to the Oversoul is found in part 30 of “Song of Myself:”

All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)

Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.)

A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each
other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
becomes omnific,
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.

The Zen-like, “All truths wait in all things” rivals Blake’s famous lines “To see a world in a grain of sand, /and heaven in a wildflower,/ hold infinity in the palm of your hand/ and eternity in an hour” in its simplicity and profundity. Both remind us of the imminence of God in his creation if only we are attuned to it.

The key word “wait” is reinforced in the next lines, suggesting that we must be receptive to the truths or they will remain undiscovered for they do not “hasten their delivery.” Neither are the truths hidden, though, because they do not “resist” delivery or require “obstetric forceps.” No “hidden guides” are required to find these truths; they stand ready for any willing to see.

Those who rely on philosophers’ logic or ministers’ sermons to reveal “hidden truths” are missing the point, for these truths are self-evident to “every man and woman.” They are not hidden between the pages of books, but stand in clear sight for any ready to see them. Neither secret knowledge or faith can reveal these truths; only a true openness to what is there will do that.

If we pause and consider who we truly are, for we are but a mirror of Nature, we shall realize the miracle of the earth where “soggy clods” can become “lovers and lamps.”

In Whitman’s world, the flower that dwells on the summit of the mountain feels connected with it, and that feeling branches out endlessly, providing us with a lesson on Nature’s unlimited power to create. When we have learned the flower’s lesson, nature will delight us and we Nature.

Loren Webster