Thursday, August 27, 2009

Goal Accomplished

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," website of an unrepentant Bard! Writing, singing, storytelling ... I love them all. The singing could use some work, but at least I can carry a tune.

On the 190th anniversary of Walt Whitman's death last May, I went to a little celebration held beside his tomb in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden, NJ. As part of the celebration, each person there had to say something about why they were there, i.e., what part Walt Whitman played in their lives.

When my turn came to speak, I said that I loved Whitman's poem, "Miracles." Then and there I vowed to memorize it by the end of the summer.

At which point my friend the Monkey Man, who had organized the event, handed me his well-worn "Complete Walt Whitman" and bid me read "Miracles" to the assembled.

As I read the poem it occurred to me that the thing was longer than I thought. A sweat broke out on my neck. I take vows seriously, and suddenly this looked like a whopper of a chore to fulfill.

I've done it.

The more I recite it, the more I love it. This poem will give your big, broad, flexible outlook a real boost.

When I went to visit the family farm a few weeks ago and walked its hillsides realizing I might rarely pass that way again, it was Whitman's words that soothed me. I may be stuck in Camden, but I'm stuck in Camden with Walt. This is no small consolation prize.

And now, completely from memory:

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles.
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of the houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me, riding in the car,
Or watch honeybees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or the stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring.
These and the rest, one and all, are to me miracles.
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle.
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
The sea itself is to me a continual miracle.
The fishes that swim, the rocks, the motion of the waves, the ships with men in them,
What greater miracles are there?

(I know there are other versions of this poem. Whitman re-wrote his stuff regularly. I got this version off the internet, so if there's something missing, let me know. However, if I've stiffed a whole 20-line stanza, don't burst my bubble by telling me. I couldn't face that right now.)

May every hour of the light and dark become a miracle for you, my friend.



seithman said...

That's an incredible poem. Thank you for sharing.

And congratulations on accomplishing your goal.

-- Jarred.

Debra She Who Seeks said...


Yvonne Rathbone said...

Memorizing poems is an incredible experience. The first time I did it, I could feel my brain changing. There's a point where the poem shifts in my mind. It's like it becomes freed of the text and flows forth from a different part of my being. And I can only give the poem to that part of my by memorizing it.

Sarita said...

The first time I realized I'd memorized a poem, I was astounded.

And I'm happy to hear that I'm not the only poet who will rewrite their work! :)

THE Michael said...

And thus miracles came upon us
ordinary things amongst the universe to be sure
mundane amazements to the trees that watch them with the sureness of eons
but flash these wonders in front of us brave, silly, and scared to death monkeys
and you have miracles
for we do not have eons to ponder them
but the flash of a few years to wonder at such things as these

these miracles

Terraluna said...

With the help of Loreena McKennitt, I have Yeats' "The stolen Child" firmly implanted in my brain. And it is miraculous that I can take it out and marvel at its beauty anytime I want.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses the dim grey sand with light,
by far off furthest Rosses
we foot it all the night.
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances,
to and fro we leap
and chase the frothy bubbles,
while the world is full of troubles,
and is anxious in its sleep.

Terraluna said...

I realized that in trying to pick out a few favorite lines that I missed something, so I ought to type in the whole thing:

Where dips the rocky highland of Sleuthwood in the Lake,
There lies a leafy island where flapping herons wake
the drowsy water rats
There we've hid our fairy vats
Full of berries, and of reddest stolen cherries.

Come away, O human child,
to the waters and the wild
with a fairy hand-in-hand
For the world's more full of weeping, than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
the dim grey sands with light,
by far-off furthest Rosses, we foot it all the night.
Weaving olden dances,
mingling hands and mingling glances,
Til the moon has taken flight,
To-and-fro we leap
and chase the frothy bubbles,
while the world is full of troubles,
and is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child,
to the waters and the wild
with a fairy hand-in-hand
For the world's more full of weeping, than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes,
from the hills above Glen Car,
in pools among the rushes,
that scarce could bathe a star,
we seek for slumbering trout,
and, whispering in their ears,
give them unquiet dreams,
leaning softly out
from ferns that drop their tears
over the young streams.

Come away, O human child,
to the waters and the wild
with a fairy hand-in-hand
For the world's more full of weeping, than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
the solemn-eyed.
He'll hear no more the lowing of calves on the warm hillside,
or the kettle on the hob -
sing peace unto his breast -
or see the brown mice bob
round and round the oatmeal chest.

For he comes, the human child,
to the waters and the wild,
with a fairy hand-in-hand, for the world's more full of weeping
than he can understand.


i have a ton of poetry books ..i'll have to see if i have any walt whitman..
i love that poem..and i'm not big on poetry.

Paula said...

I am embarrassed to say that I have never read Walt Whitman, but that poem has given me the urge to see what our local library has to offer. In school we seemed to memorize Robert Frost many times, but never Whitman.

Nettle said...

Terraluna, I have Loreena McKennit to thank for that one as well, along with...

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye
And through the fields the roads run by
to many-towered Camelot
And up and down the people go
Gazing where the lilies blow
On an island there below -
the island of Shalott...

and so on (though she left some stanzas out, so my version of it is imperfect.) I love it when she sets poems to music because then I get to keep them. I keep hoping she'll do Shelley's "The Cloud" - the last stanza was the first poem I ever memorized on purpose, when I first encountered it in middle school:

I am the daughter of Earth and Water
and the nursling of the sky
I pass through the pores of the oceans and shores
I change but I cannot die
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph
And out of the caverns of air
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb
I arise, and unbuild it again.

I don't have a scrap of Whitman, though - I might have to correct that situation.

Anne, congratulations on your new poem.

Thomas said...

I'm sure you meant the anniversary of Uncle Walt's birth, which was on May 31st of this year.

Walt Whitman died in March of 1892. This would have been the 117th anniversary of his passing.

I always loved the quote "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

Anne Johnson said...

Yes, it was his birthday. I'm wondering why we celebrated it at his tomb??? (Weird.)

Terraluna, that is a beautiful poem, and very illustrative of the ways of faerie.