54 – Walt Whitman

The past and present wilt–I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

I know I’ve heard of Walt Whitman before.  I just can’t think of where.  Hm…

What drew me to this poem was the way it looks.  He says something and then has something in parenthesis.  For anyone who’s read and enjoyed John Gardner’s Grendel, this would be something you’d notice as well.

I think he’s writing this poem in the in light of some event  that caused him to think about death.  Perhaps an accident or ailment that caused him to question whether or not he would survive.  It’s interesting that the past and present is wilting since he has been filled.  I would think that if you fill something it’d be happy instead of dying.  The listener up there he speaks to I’m assuming is God, but he has no intent of dying yet because he is only speaking in passing (“I can only stay a minute longer”).  After he realizes he will live roadrunr.jpg he looks to those around him and analyzes their rush.  They’re in such a hurry to get finished with their chores and get to supper and get on with their lives, when will they pay attention to him?  When will they walk and speak with him?  Will they have the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to him before he’s gone?

Whitman is telling us that we need to take time to appreciate those around us.  We’re not sure how long they’ll be here.


The Fish

WordPress isn’t letting me post the poem as it appears, and I think how it’s indented says a lot about the poem.  Here’s the link


Attempt number two.  I’ll start by pointing out that the poem is set up and it kind of looks like waves.  The way the stanzas are indented, they rise and fall.  I’m trying to figure out where the fish the poem is named after fits in, but it seems to be an oddity in the poem.  I see more images of violence and a conflict between the sea and the cliff. 

I looked online and a lot of sources seemed to say that there’s a message of man trying to control nature and shape it to fit our needs.  I can see the drive to change as the ocean pounds on the cliff and wears it down.  I guess, since the cliff takes damage but still remains, that’s a symbol for nature.  The sea could be humanity because it tries to shape the rock, but the rock sustains damage but will not change to let to ocean overtake everything.  But what about the fish?


If you just hit save your poems and commentary won’t be published, they’ll just save as drafts and won’t ever show up on your blog lol.  Don’t make that mistake guys.

marianne moore

I have been reading these poems for two weeks now and I still just can’t get them.  I’ve tried CPRing, keeping them in my pocket…  I have them printed and on my bedside table so i can reread them often.  I don’t know why she isn’t clicking.  Can someone help me?

Day’s End

Oxen and sheep were brought back down
Long ago, and bramble gates closed. Over
Mountains and rivers, far from my old garden,
A windswept moon rises into clear night.
Springs trickle down dark cliffs, and autumn
Dew fills ridgeline grasses. My hair seems
Whiter in lamplight. The flame flickers
Good fortune over and over — and for what?

I liked this poem because there’s a lot of life imagery.  There’s animals, trickling streams, rivers, gardens…  There’s an eerie feeling to the poem when he talks about the windswept moon and his hair white in the lamplight.  At the end of the poem he asks for what, seeming to question the things, the life, that he mentioned in the poem.  The windswept moon is cold and lonely and always hovering over everything, like a reminder of death.  Is Tu Fu questioning the meaning of life?



      FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length 
      Of five long winters! and again I hear 
      These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs 
      With a soft inland murmur.--Once again 
      Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, 
      That on a wild secluded scene impress 
      Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect 
      The landscape with the quiet of the sky. 
      The day is come when I again repose 
      Here, under this dark sycamore, and view                        10 
      These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, 
      Which at this season, with their unripe fruits, 
      Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves 
      'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see 
      These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines 
      Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms, 
      Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke 
      Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! 
      With some uncertain notice, as might seem 
      Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,                     20 
      Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire 
      The Hermit sits alone. 
                              These beauteous forms, 
      Through a long absence, have not been to me 
      As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: 
      But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din 
      Of towns and cities, I have owed to them 
      In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, 
      Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; 
      And passing even into my purer mind, 
      With tranquil restoration:--feelings too                        30 
      Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, 
      As have no slight or trivial influence 
      On that best portion of a good man's life, 
      His little, nameless, unremembered, acts 
      Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, 
      To them I may have owed another gift, 
      Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, 
      In which the burthen of the mystery, 
      In which the heavy and the weary weight 
      Of all this unintelligible world,                               40 
      Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood, 
      In which the affections gently lead us on,-- 
      Until, the breath of this corporeal frame 
      And even the motion of our human blood 
      Almost suspended, we are laid asleep 
      In body, and become a living soul: 
      While with an eye made quiet by the power 
      Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, 
      We see into the life of things. 
                                       If this 
      Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft--                        50 
      In darkness and amid the many shapes 
      Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir 
      Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, 
      Have hung upon the beatings of my heart-- 
      How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee, 
      O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods, 
      How often has my spirit turned to thee! 
        And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought, 
      With many recognitions dim and faint, 
      And somewhat of a sad perplexity,                               60 
      The picture of the mind revives again: 
      While here I stand, not only with the sense 
      Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts 
      That in this moment there is life and food 
      For future years. And so I dare to hope, 
      Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first 
      I came among these hills; when like a roe 
      I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides 
      Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, 
      Wherever nature led: more like a man                            70 
      Flying from something that he dreads, than one 
      Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then 
      (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days, 
      And their glad animal movements all gone by) 
      To me was all in all.--I cannot paint 
      What then I was. The sounding cataract 
      Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, 
      The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, 
      Their colours and their forms, were then to me 
      An appetite; a feeling and a love,                              80 
      That had no need of a remoter charm, 
      By thought supplied, nor any interest 
      Unborrowed from the eye.--That time is past, 
      And all its aching joys are now no more, 
      And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this 
      Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts 
      Have followed; for such loss, I would believe, 
      Abundant recompence. For I have learned 
      To look on nature, not as in the hour 
      Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes                    90 
      The still, sad music of humanity, 
      Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power 
      To chasten and subdue. And I have felt 
      A presence that disturbs me with the joy 
      Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime 
      Of something far more deeply interfused, 
      Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
      And the round ocean and the living air, 
      And the blue sky, and in the mind of man; 
      A motion and a spirit, that impels                             100 
      All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
      And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still 
      A lover of the meadows and the woods, 
      And mountains; and of all that we behold 
      From this green earth; of all the mighty world 
      Of eye, and ear,--both what they half create, 
      And what perceive; well pleased to recognise 
      In nature and the language of the sense, 
      The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 
      The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul                  110 
      Of all my moral being. 
                              Nor perchance, 
      If I were not thus taught, should I the more 
      Suffer my genial spirits to decay: 
      For thou art with me here upon the banks 
      Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend, 
      My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch 
      The language of my former heart, and read 
      My former pleasures in the shooting lights 
      Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while 
      May I behold in thee what I was once,                          120 
      My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make, 
      Knowing that Nature never did betray 
      The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege, 
      Through all the years of this our life, to lead 
      From joy to joy: for she can so inform 
      The mind that is within us, so impress 
      With quietness and beauty, and so feed 
      With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, 
      Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, 
      Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all                    130 
      The dreary intercourse of daily life, 
      Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb 
      Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold 
      Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon 
      Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; 
      And let the misty mountain-winds be free 
      To blow against thee: and, in after years, 
      When these wild ecstasies shall be matured 
      Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind 
      Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,                       140 
      Thy memory be as a dwelling-place 
      For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then, 
      If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, 
      Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts 
      Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, 
      And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance-- 
      If I should be where I no more can hear 
      Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams 
      Of past existence--wilt thou then forget 
      That on the banks of this delightful stream                    150 
      We stood together; and that I, so long 
      A worshipper of Nature, hither came 
      Unwearied in that service: rather say 
      With warmer love--oh! with far deeper zeal 
      Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget, 
      That after many wanderings, many years 
      Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, 
      And this green pastoral landscape, were to me 
      More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake! 
   Upon reading this I thought a lot of last year when we did transcendentalism.  His focus on nature  reminded me of people we read like Emerson and Thorough.  I liked how the poem ended, how things were different than when he had been there originally.  It's like he's looking back on his life and realizes that he's in a different place and can't go back to what he was.