Sep 09 2013

Walt Whitman – Grand is the Seen

Published by at 9:04 am under Poetry

Grand is the Seen
by Walt Whitman

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


/ Photo by dmaabsta /

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!






Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Walt Whitman

US (1819 – 1892) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Transcendentalist

Born on May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman was the second son of Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor. The family, which consisted of nine children, lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s. At the age of twelve Whitman began to learn the printer’s trade, and fell in love with the written word. Largely self-taught, he read voraciously, becoming acquainted with the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Whitman worked as a printer in New York City until a devastating fire in the printing district demolished the industry. In 1836, at the age of 17, he began his career as teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career. He founded a weekly newspaper, Long-Islander, and later edited a number of Brooklyn and New York papers. In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become editor of the New Orleans Crescent. It was in New Orleans that he experienced at first hand the viciousness of slavery in the slave markets of that city.

On his return to Brooklyn in the fall of 1848, he founded a “free soil” newspaper, the Brooklyn Freeman, and continued to develop the unique style of poetry that later so astonished Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1855, Whitman took out a copyright on the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which consisted of twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the volume himself, and sent a copy to Emerson in July of 1855. Whitman released a second edition of the book in 1856, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his subsequent career, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more editions of the book.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a “purged” and “cleansed” life. He wrote freelance journalism and visited the wounded at New York-area hospitals. He then traveled to Washington, D.C. in December 1862 to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. Overcome by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals. Whitman stayed in the city for eleven years. He took a job as a clerk for the Department of the Interior, which ended when the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, discovered that Whitman was the author of Leaves of Grass, which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet.

Whitman struggled to support himself through most of his life. In Washington he lived on a clerk’s salary and modest royalties, and spent any excess money, including gifts from friends, to buy supplies for the patients he nursed. He had also been sending money to his widowed mother and an invalid brother. From time to time writers both in the states and in England sent him “purses” of money so that he could get by.

In the early 1870s, Whitman settled in Camden, where he had come to visit his dying mother at his brother’s house. However, after suffering a stroke, Whitman found it impossible to return to Washington. He stayed with his brother until the 1882 publication of Leaves of Grass gave Whitman enough money to buy a home in Camden. In the simple two-story clapboard house, Whitman spent his declining years working on additions and revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems and prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891). After his death on March 26, 1892, Whitman was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on a lot in Harleigh Cemetery.

– from Poets.org

More poetry by Walt Whitman

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Walt Whitman – Grand is the Seen”

  1. Marciaon 09 Sep 2013 at 12:04 pm

    This is a lovely reflection on Walt Whitman’s awesome poem. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

  2. Brenda Pikeon 09 Sep 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Will remember you Ivan,Go gently.
    love Walt Whitman’s thinking ,reminds me of the saying that God speaks in three books,nature,Scripture and experience.
    my late husband used to preach that human beings are creation’s mouthpiece,offering all back in awe and wonder to Creator.
    Thank you and take care,His creation.

  3. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 10 Sep 2013 at 6:02 am

    I did miss hearing from you, Ivan, and am glad to hear from you today. Whitman’s old house is near mine off Walt Whitman Ave.here in L.I.
    Oh, yes:” It is the soul that is aware of the richness of the world”. . . and opens us to know the Divine in all things.
    Thank you for your inspiring thoughts. And be well
    as you conserve your energy to experience this grand life.
    Namaste,
    Therese

  4. Pegon 10 Sep 2013 at 7:26 am

    For me, Autumn is the time to reread Whitman and swerve for oncoming woolly worms. This is just my favorite time of year even though I also struggle physically when the earth’s energy flow shifts (you can see this with hurricane season), and the subsequent energy shift within the body to the pelvic floor. I wish you well, Ivan, while your body adjusts to the changes, and everyone else as well.

    Yesterday, I was thinking about the wild places. It is quite apt for Whitman to be brought into the picture. Everything seems to be buzzing with energy, the planets, earth, the Sun, the bugs and crickets, the tomato plants and butterfly bushes. It is the mad rush of life to ripen just before the rest after harvest. I actually find myself momentarily wishing for the quiet of spring compared to this cacaphony of sound. Whitman reaches for the wild space that allows the brain to rest from its rushing and the soul to make itself known as the heart proclaims…”O my soul!”

    Ironically, we do not need to do anything during this mad rush of life for the “unseen soul of me, comprehending, endowing all those, Lighting the light, the sky and stars.”

  5. Gerryon 10 Sep 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I’m grateful for your posts and I send energy and strength to you each day!

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