Whitman, III

2001-06-15

Following up on my two most recent entries, here are some more Whitman quotes, this time on the topic of individualism:

O the joy of a manly self-hood!
To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant
   known or unknown,
To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic,
To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye,
To speak with a full and sonorous voice out of a broad chest,
To confront with your personality all the other
   personalities of the earth.
...
O while I live to be the ruler of life, not a slave,
To meet life as a powerful conqueror,
No fumes, no ennui, no more complaints or scornful criticisms,
To these proud laws of the air, the water and the ground, proving
   my interior soul impregnable,
And nothing exterior shall ever take command of me.
--A Song of Joys

I swear I begin to see the meaning of these things,
It is not the earth, it is not America who is so great,
It is I who am great or to be great, it is You up there, or any one,
It is to walk rapidly through civilizations, governments, theories,
Through poems, pageants, shows, to form individuals.
Underneath all, individuals,
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals,
The American compact is altogether with individuals,
The only government is that which makes minute of individuals,
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one
   single individual -- namely to You.
--By Blue Ontario's Shore, §15

I have allow'd the stress of my poems from beginning to end to bear upon American individuality and assist it -- not only because that is a great lesson in Nature, amid all her generalizing laws, but as counterpoise to the leveling tendencies of Democracy -- and for other reasons. Defiant of ostensible literary and other conventions, I avowedly chat 'the great pride of man in himself', and permit it to be more or less a motif of nearly all my verse.
--A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads

I say a man shall not hold property in man;
I say the least developed person on earth is just as important
   and sacred to himself or herself, as the most developed
   person is to himself or herself.
--Says, §3

...nigh at hand, see a wonder beyond any of them,
Namely yourself -- the form and thoughts of a man,
A man! because all the world, and all the inventions of the world
   are but the food of the body and the soul of one man...
--Pictures

Amid many changes, and a formulation taking far different shape from what I at first supposed, this basic purpose [i.e., 'the Religious purpose'] has never been departed from in the composition of my verses. Not of course to exhibit itself in the old ways, as in writing hymns or psalms with an eye to the church-pew, or to express conventional pietism, or the sickly yearnings of devotees, but in new ways, and aiming at the widest sub-bases and inclusions of Humanity, and tallying the fresh air of sea and land. I will see (said I to myself) whether there is not, for my purposes as a poet, a Religion, and a sound Religious germenancy in the average Human Race, at least in their modern development in the United States, and in the hardy common fiber and native yearnings and elements, deeper and larger, and affording more profitable returns, than all mere sects or churches -- as boundless, joyous, and vital as Nature itself -- A germenancy that has too long been unencouraged, unsung, almost unknown....
--As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal