Monday, 25 November 2013

Words of the Week #16

Walt Whitman's (1819-1891) "Leaves of Grass" was controversial at the time
 as it talked about a range of themes including homo/heterosexuality
This classic 19th century American Poet is little known to us on this side of the pond. Forever immortalised by Dead Poet’s Society’s “O Captain! My Captain..” scene, Walt Whitman provides a refreshing realism away from the pomp and extravagance adopted by his British Romantic counterparts at the same time. Whitman was not afraid to address a variety of topics, some of which often classed as too risqué for the conservative American audience. If you want to get a full feel of his style, his epic “Song of Myself” provides a true zeitgeist feel to 19th century New York touching on love, equality and the idea of the American Dream -  and I highly recommend it! Meanwhile here are some of his shorter works which stand out:

Beat! Beat! Drums!

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow

Walt Whitman

World Take Good Notice

World, take good notice, silver stars fading,        
Milky hue ript, weft of white detaching,               
Coals thirty-eight, baleful and burning, 
Scarlet, significant, hands off warning,  
Now and henceforth flaunt from these shores.

Walt Whitman    

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