Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Whitman Favorite.

I have a great fondness for Walt Whitman. As a high schooler, I didn't understand him. It took a college professor to help me understand him. What resulted was a paper on his epic "Song of Myself" that garnered me the highest grade in the class by .5. That 4.0 paper was one of the highlights of my English career and I owe a great part of it to Whitman.

I love the way he uses language and transforms it. He takes seemingly everyday emotions and scenes and transforms them into something far more meaningful. I love that, and I love everything by him.

I recently pulled out my copy of Leaves of Grass to leave by my bed. It has been a comfort to me in the past and I have needed that same level of comfort and familiarity lately.

The poem I am posting here is called "Assurances." I first read it back in college, and it is a poem I return to often. It reminds me that things will ultimately be okay in the end, and that while I may not be happy in this moment, things will return to normal eventually. This poem comforted me when my grandmother was in the hospital back in 2007 shortly before she passed away. It eased some of the pain I felt then, just as it eases me now.

For those of you who aren't poetry lovers, I hope this appeals to you.

I need no assurances, I am a man who is preoccupied of his own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands and
face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am not cognizant
of, calm and actual faces,
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent in
any iota of the world,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless,
in vain I try to think how limitless,
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play their
swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I shall one day
be eligible to do as much as they, and more than they,
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions of years,
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have
their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, and
the hearing another hearing, and the voice another voice,
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men are
provided for, and that the deaths of young women and the
deaths of little children are provided for,
(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the purport
of all Life, is not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horrors of
them, no matter whose wife, child, husband, father, lover, has
gone down, are provided for, to the minutest points,
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere at any
time, is provided for in the inherences of things,
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space, but I
believe Heavenly Death provides for all.


  1. Barnes and Noble was giving out free "Leaves of Grass" eBook last week. They give out many classics (change every week).

  2. I love Whitman, too, and this is a great poem. His "O Captain, My Captain" is one of my all-time favorites, and not just because of Dead Poets Society. Allen Ginsberg is another favorite poet of mine, and I see him as a sort-of disciple of Whitman's. Great American poets, both of them.

  3. That is a beautiful poem...thank you for sharing it :)

  4. I'm a huge Whitman fan, which has always amazed me because I'm not naturally drawn to poetry. I also discovered him in college and haven't let him go since!

    In my opinion, he's our great poet of "urgency", among other things.

    I hadn't read the poem you posted, so thank you for that. I love this line in the poem:

    "(Did you think Life was so well provided for, and Death, the purport
    of all Life, is not well provided for?)"

    I'm glad I discovered you blog, and plan to follow you through your readings!


  5. Thanks so much for sharing this poem. I really enjoy Walt Whitman but haven't run across a class that read him yet. I'm going to bookmark this poem for a bad time :)

  6. Hi Allie, thank you for that. I'm not a poetry fan, as in I can't read a whole poetry book, but I do enjoy isolated poems. I always say I get my poetry from song lyrics.

    This poem reminded me of another one from a Portuguese poet that goes:

    I am nothing
    I shall always be nothing
    I cannot wish to be anything.
    Aside from that, I have within me all the dreams of the world.