Walt Whitman: “Living always, always dying”Posted: November 2, 2011
Of him I love day and night
Of him I love day and night I dream’d I heard he was dead,
And I dream’d I went where they had buried him I love, but he was
not in that place.
And I dream’d I wander’d searching among burial-places to find him,
And I found that every place was a burial-place;
The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is, now,)
The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement, the Chicago,
Boston, Philadelphia, the Mannahatta *, were as full of the dead
as of the living.
And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;
And what I dream’d I will henceforth tell to every person and age,
And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream’d,
And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with
And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently
everywhere, even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be
And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly
render’d to powder and pour’d in the sea, I shall be satisfied,
Or if it be distributed to the winds I shall be satisfied.
* Mannahatta – the original Delaware/Algonquin Native name
O Living Always, Always Dying
O living always, always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever;
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am content;)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look
at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind.
Walt Whitman was born in 1819, at Long Island, New York.
By his mid-teens he was working as a typesetter in Brooklyn
and began to contribute juvenilia to newspapers.
At twenty he was a schoolteacher but being a
restless fellow, one to get fired, or to quit, he went from job
to job, writing being the only steady thing.
His poetry collection “Leaves of Grass”, from 1855, is considered
a cornerstone in what might now be called “the American voice”
– plain-spoken and egalitarian – yet grandiose and self-centred, too.
Whitman is the 19th-century father of free-verse poetry in the
English language, basing the form and cadence of his poems
on the Psalms of the King James Bible.
The two poems featured above take the Victorian-era (even in the U.S.)
morbid maudlinism surrounding Death and give it a 180-degree turn.
Whitman died in 1892.