Grand is the Seen

by Walt Whitman


Original Language English

Grand is the seen, the light, to me -- grand are the sky and stars,
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those,
Lighting the light, the sky and stars, delving the earth, sailing the sea,
(What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?)
More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far -- more lasting thou than they.

-- from The Oxford Book of Mystical Verse, Edited by D. H. S. Nicholson / Edited by A. H. E. Lee

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

My apologies about the unannounced hiatus in the poem emails last week. I was hit with an especially difficult bout of chronic fatigue/ME. My Facebook post from a few days ago: Some days it's about strategic use of energy and time, some days require sheer cussedness to get through, and then some days all you can do is yield...

I'm feeling a bit battered by the past week, but I'm on the mend and getting back into my normal rhythms again.

--

On to today's poem--

Grand is the seen, the light, to me -- grand are the sky and stars,
Grand is the earth, and grand are lasting time and space,
And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary...


Too often we have trained ourselves to dismiss nature and the material world in favor of an inner reality, whether that's the world of the intellect and ideas or the realm of the spirit.

Whitman has the balance right, I think. He first acknowledges the utterly amazing world of beauty and complexity that continuously invites our awareness to explore and expand.

But grander far the unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those...

But then he recognizes the soul as being greater still. It is the soul that is aware of the richness of the world. Without the awareness of the soul, all of creation is simply materiality, dense existence. It is the infusion and perception of consciousness that witnesses that material reality as beauty, as immensity, and dangerous, as life-filled, as home. All of manifest existence is a grand space, but it is only a grand space through perception and the unfolding of life within it.

(What were all those, indeed, without thee, unseen soul? of what amount without thee?)

The vast, lovely, sometimes frightening spaces we witness in the wilderness, tell us something of the human soul that perceives it. And the way we treat those wild spaces also tells us something of what we think of those spaces within ourselves.

More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far -- more lasting thou than they.


As wide as is the natural world that houses us, the soul is bigger still, which is, for many of us, a frightening thought. Better to embrace an immense, puzzling Self within a wide, wild world. Adventures are yet to be had!


Sending much love to everyone!



Recommended Books: Walt Whitman

The Oxford Book of Mystical Verse Song of Myself Leaves of Grass Dead Poets Society (DVD)





Grand is the Seen