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"...they do not ask who seizes fast to them..."

Wow. From Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself":

Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten'd with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass'd all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.

Youthful exuberance, loneliness, longing, simmering lust. Seems to me this is the raw material for a very moving short film. I've been struggling to get into Whitman so far, as I've found I need near-silence to really concentrate on the verses while my fellow train commuters have been unusually chattery and distracting this week. But this morning, the car I rode was blessedly and atypically quiet, and I breezed through. 

July 23, 2010 in Books | Permalink


I've always felt a fondness for Whitman, yet have read next to nothing. You're inspiring me to move past this hypocrisy - thanks!

Regarding noisy carfellows, I feel the same about working in coffee shops. Any drug store sells cheap foam earplugs, and they make all the difference in the world.

Posted by: beth at Jul 23, 2010 10:56:53 AM

My train was so quiet that I had to rap my ear a few times to make sure I hadn't gone deaf. Wouldn't it be great if our hearing had an on/off switch?

Posted by: Pete at Jul 23, 2010 4:31:04 PM