Whitman is nature. Whitman is vastness. Whitman is all inspiration. Solid and subtle, he is the body and soul of poetry that peers into Truth. His Leaves of Grass reveals the depth of his insight and the wideness of his outlook. His determined and forceful personality shines through these poems, which he called “New World Sons, and an Epic of Democracy.”
When the wind and storm of today bring in the golden Tomorrow, Whitman will shine forth, haloed in a new glory on the new horizon. His poems and his nation’s consciousness are inseparable. A man’s poems must always be an absolute reflection of his character and personality. And Whitman is no exception.
Saint Beuve’s definition of the greatest poet applies most justifiably to Whitman:
The greatest poet is not he who has done the best; it is he who suggests the most; he, not all of whose meaning is at first obvious, and who leaves you much to desire, to explain, to study, much to complete in your turn.
Let us see and feel Whitman in his “Song of Myself”:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Who but the poet of Tomorrow could look across space and time into their very core? Again:
‘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…’
William Cowper said, “Wisdom is humble that it knows no more.”
Whitman says of wisdom:
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another nothaving it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its ownproof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things,
And the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things
that provokes it out of the soul.
Do we not hear in this the Voice of the Infinite and the Eternal Whitman’s one foot is, as it were, firmly fixed on earth, the other in Heaven.
I am the poet of the body and I am the poet of the soul…
At another place he sings:
I have said that the soul is not more than the body.
“The soul is always beautiful, it appears more or it appears less, it comes or it lags behind,
It comes from its embower’d garden and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world…
Man and woman: different entities?
I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man… “
Could the picture of oneness be better painted?
Speaking of oneness and human sympathy, Carlyle affirmed, “Of a truth, men are mystically united: a mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.”
Says Whitman: “And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral, drest in his shroud…”
Emerson and Whitman are twin-souls of the Truth: Emerson, soft, sweet and luminous; and Whitman, dynamically fronting the Reality which is manifesting to an ever-increasing extent. Fellow-pilgrims on their way to the Home of God, the culmination of today’s world, they march in stupendous glory.
Whitman’s vision of the oneness of everything and in everything compels him to reveal:
O my soul! if I realize you I have satisfaction,
Animals and vegetables! if I realize you I have satisfaction,
Laws of the earth and air! if I realize you I have satisfaction.
And what could be more divinely prophetic and significantly true than this:
Nature and man shall be disjoin’d and diffused no more,The true son of God shall absolutely fuse them.
Born ahead of his time, Whitman pointed to his nation and to the world the Path of Tomorrow. And, by the Grace of the Supreme, the dawn-rays of Tomorrow have already become visible, however faintly, on today’s horizon.
Written in Pondicherry, India, 1962
Excerpt from Philosopher-Thinkers: The Power-Towers Of The Mind And Poet-Seers: The Fragrance-Hours Of The Heart In The West by Sri Chinmoy