Copyrighted 2012, Great Smoky Mountains
Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face.
leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you. — Walt Whitman, Laws of Creation
Walt Whitman is one of Americas greatest poets. He had a way of connecting to people as he traveled America. Just as he connected to his peers as he moved from area to area and from experience to experience, he connects us to him and to all he met and wrote about. His poems have a strength of love and a commitment to seeing the goodness in people. This is a gift and one we don’t always see in this twenty-first century.
To a Stranger
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly
I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, ( it comes to me as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor
left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flash, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast
hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.” —-Walt Whitman, Laws for Creation
I think Whitman was an original man. There has never been another like him. There have been American poets who loved nature and who dedicated poems to the joy of nature, but Walt Whitman had a way of seeing nature that was unique. He also had a way of describing war when he was a volunteer nurse in the Civil War. His ability to look into people’s souls and to access their souls was extraordinary. Poetry was his medium and he has left us a treasure trove of his rhythm and his way of looking at life. He was a man who often traveled alone; he was outside of his society in many ways, separate from us, but he has never left us. His words will keep him alive for many centuries to come.
Whitman walked along the roads and byways
and wrote the words that have preserved
the feel of a younger America.