Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When I Heard at the Close of Day

"When I Heard at the Close of Day"
by Walt Whitman
from Leaves of Grass (1892)

When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow’d;
And else, when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still I was not happy.
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing, bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,         
And when I thought how my dear friend, my lover, was on his way coming, O then I was happy.
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next, at evening, came my friend,
And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me, whispering, to congratulate me,  
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness, in the autumn moonbeams, his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast - and that night I was happy.

About three weeks ago, I dedicated my first Transcendentalist blog post to Thoreau and Walden.  Today it's Walt Whitman and his marvelous poetry collection Leaves of Grass.  Originally published in 1855 with only twelve unnamed poems, Whitman intended for the book to be small enough to carry in one's pocket.  It was expanded by Whitman about eight times during his lifetime until the final "deathbed" edition, published in 1892 two months before his death, which contains nearly 400 poems.  Nestled among this hefty volume of poetry is this beautiful expression of love ... I hope one day to feel this again.

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