japonisme: what do you hear?

16 August 2007

what do you hear?

from Salut au Monde

What do you hear,
Walt Whitman?

I hear the workman singing, and the farmer’s wife singing;
I hear in the distance the sounds of children, and of animals
early in the day;
I hear quick rifle-cracks from the riflemen of East Tennessee and Kentucky,
hunting on hills; 25
I hear emulous shouts of Australians, pursuing
the wild horse;
I hear the Spanish dance, with castanets,
in the chestnut shade, to the rebeck and guitar;
I hear continual echoes from the Thames;
I hear fierce French liberty songs;
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical recitative of old poems; 30
I hear the Virginia plantation-chorus of negroes,
of a harvest night, in the glare of pine-knots;
I hear the strong baritone of the ’long-shore-men of Mannahatta;
I hear the stevedores unlading the cargoes, and singing;
I hear the screams of the water-fowl of solitary north-west lakes;
I hear the rustling pattering of locusts, as they strike the grain and grass with the showers of their terrible clouds; 35
I hear the Coptic refrain, toward sundown, pensively falling on the breast of the black venerable vast mother, the Nile;
I hear the bugles of raft-tenders on the streams of Kanada;
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and the bells of the mule;
I hear the Arab muezzin, calling from the top of the mosque;
I hear the Christian priests at the altars of their churches—
I hear the responsive bass and soprano; 40
I hear the wail of utter despair of the white-hair’d Irish grandparents, when they learn the death of their grandson;
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor’s voice,
putting to sea at Okotsk;
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle, as the slaves march on—
as the husky gangs pass on by twos and threes,
fasten’d together with wrist-chains and ankle-chains;
I hear the entreaties of women tied up for punishment—
I hear the sibilant whisk of thongs through the air;
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and psalms; 45
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks,
and the strong legends of the Romans;
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death
of the beautiful God—the Christ;
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the loves, wars,
adages, transmitted safely to this day,
from poets who wrote three thousand years ago.

(from 'leaves of grass,' published 1900.)

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Blogger David Apatoff said...

Always happy to see Walt Whitman getting a little modern attention, Lotusgreen. Leaves of Grass is as close as I have come to finding a Bible. The picture is pretty cool too.

20 August, 2007 09:50  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks david! how did i miss seeing this comment??!

11 September, 2007 22:06  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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