Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman

I’ve been enjoying listening to a librivox audio recording of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – an American poet writing in the late 1800’s. Whitman kept adding to this collection throughout his lifetime: the final version had grown to some 400 poems in its final revision, shortly before his death.

The poems differ somewhat in style and tone: many are frankly sensuous, some are reflective – a few, insightful.

I have yet to finish listening to the entire collection, but here’s one of my favorite excerpts to date, from Canto 6 in Book 3:

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

Leaves of Grass


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