Thursday, March 15, 2012

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, The Calamus Poems (4)

These I, singing in spring, collect for lovers,
(For who but I should understand lovers, and all their sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?)
Collecting, I traverse the garden, the world -- but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side -- now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences, where the old stones thrown there, picked from the fields, have accumulated,
Wild-flowers and vines and weeds come up through the stones, and partly cover them -- Beyond these I pass,
Far, far in the forest, before I think where I get,
Solitary, smelling the earthly smell, stopping now and then in silence,
Alone I had thought -- yet soon a silent troop gathers around me,
Some walk by my side, and some behind, and some embrace my arms or neck,
They, the spirits of friends, dead or alive -- thicker they come, a great crowd, and I in the middle,
Collecting, dispensing, singing in spring, there I wander with them,
Plucking something for tokens -- something for these, till I hit upon a theme -- tossing toward whoever is near me.

Here! lilac, with a branch of pine,
Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pulled off a live-oak in Florida, as it hung trailing down,
Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,
And here what I now draw from the water, wading in the pond-side,
(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me -- and returns again, never to separate from me,
And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades -- this calamus-root shall,
Interchange it, youths, with each other! Let none render it back!)
And twigs of maple, and a bunch of wild orange, and chestnut,
And stems of currents, and plum-blows, and the aromatic cedar;
These I, compassed around by a thick cloud of spirits,
Wandering, point to, or touch as I pass, or throw them loosely from me,
Indicating to each one what he shall have -- giving something to each,
But what I drew from the water by the pond-side, that I reserve,
I will give of it -- but only them that love, as I myself am capable of loving. 

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

photo Fulden May 2006: grethe bachmann

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