motto lotto

Monday, June 2, 2008

Whitman on the soul, body, God

48

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own
funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the
learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it
may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel'd universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed
before a million universes.

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and
about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd
by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

"Song of Myself" Leaves of Grass (Project Gutenberg)

When I read this section to Sarah she got stuck on the "Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself." With the light of some of the other lines of his I've posted hopefully it comes across less egotistical because I really think, to Whitman, self and others are cojoined.

3 comments:

Charlie H said...

I understand the line to mean, "How can I possibly figure out God? I find myself impossible enough to understand!" -- i.e., my self gives me great cause to wonder.

Not to say you aren't wonderful, Mike.

Mike said...

that makes so much more sense.

"full of wonder"

Mike said...

He's exploring himself and exploring the world through himself but it's not an expression of vanity. (i think)

Whitman does love himself though (he sees the whole world in himself). I think that's good.

That's not the only line that would cause pause.

These two earlier statements in that same section "And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is, And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud," lend something to understanding how Whitman sees God and others.