To sing to all men, to sing himself, to sing to the origin and at the end, to the passage of the pilgrim through the maps. Say that we are earth. Who engendered that poet whose voice without challenge continues to tell us that “the journey I undertake is eternal Who told this poet of a fish-like island to teach us that we are just a molecule of an infinite cosmos in which, however, the degradation of a being can degrade everyone?
Where did that man who is one and all men come from at the same time? Walt Whitman, two hundred years after his birth, from the beginning of his luminous journey through the fate of democracy and its random twists and turns, continues to question us about the original word, the same word that, as Philo of Alexandria would say, creates things . And, also, about our belonging to a genre, to a destination, to what will come. Whitman, the one with the polyphonies, the one who has the voice of the sailor and the walker, more than a poet is a prophet.
Whitman, a milestone in the history of literature, is a consequence of modernity (or a cause?), The elevation of the subject to supreme instances. A poet who, as I do not know who warned him, freed us from morality. A troubadour of himself who, when discovering the human essence, became all men simultaneously. “I celebrate and I sing, / and everything that is mine is also yours, / because there is not an atom of my body that does not belong to you”.
That poet who “happily executed the most audacious and widest experiment that the history of literature records”, as Borges said, is a man who multiplies in all. An observer of society and nature, of culture, who created narrating himself, singing to his body and to those of others, to his spirit and to the rest, a different (unique?) Way of being a poet . “His message is about teaching man the art of living,” said Enrique Lopez in the essay Walt Whitman, the poet and his work .
Whitman, “well raised and born by an exalted mother,” the one who knew buffalo and expressed pains at the death of his beloved Lincoln; he who drank of Emerson and knew of stars and rain and snowfall, sang to man and woman (“We can not find an explanation for the love of a man’s body, or that of a woman’s body”). And it was all voices, all landscapes, all lives and deaths.
Harold Bloom, the same who has said that Whitman is his “own muse”, pointed out that the two main American poets, the one that summons us in this note and Emily Dickinson, “became universal focusing on themselves”. In effect, the author of Leaves of Grass discovers his “self”, reworks it, subverts it, elevates it to unknown dimensions and puts it to circulate among the rest of humanity. Then appear the laborer and the worker, the soldier and the cowherd, the woodcutter and the prostitute … All are he and the others. “I am the poet of the adamic songs” in which he offers himself “immersed in the sex of my being and my hymns”.
So many things have been said about Whitman. And others will continue to be said. Your old voice will always be new. His beard and hat will continue to be part of the outside world, of the appearance, of a cosmic poet (how many times has this qualification been said?) That offers us trips through Manhattan or the Mississippi and through human interiority. He is the poet of freedom and beauty understood as harmony between nature and culture.
“Not a single moment, beautiful old Walt Whitman, I have stopped seeing your beard full of butterflies, / nor your corduroy shoulders worn by the moon, / nor your virginal Apollo thighs”, Garcia Lorca sings in his Oda to Walt Whitman . After his death (New Jersey 1892), the poet sleeps on the banks of the Hudson and all the rivers of the world. Your “I” belongs to all of us.
Whitman, singer of peace and war, body and soul, is still part of births and announcements. “I announce the advent of elementary people / Announcement to triumphant justice / Announce intransigent liberties and equalities”. The poet of yesterday and tomorrow continues to question us. We are all Whitman. He kisses us all with his words of wise old man who became a crowd.