Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quote of the Day (Walt Whitman, on the ‘Genius of the United States’)

“Other states indicate themselves in their deputies … but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors … but always most in the common people. Their manners, speech, dress, friendship—the freshness and candor of their physiognomy—the picturesque looseness of their carriage … their deathless attachment to freedom—their aversion to anything indecorous or soft or mean—the practical acknowledgment of the citizens of one state by the citizens of all other states—the fierceness of their roused resentment—their curiosity and welcome of novelty—their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy—their susceptibility to a slight—the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors—the fluency of their speech—their delight in music, the sure symptom of manly tenderness and native elegance of soul … their good temper and open handedness—the terrible significance of their elections—the President’s taking off his hat to them, not they to him—these too are unrhymed poetry. It awaits the gigantic and generous treatment worthy of it.”-- Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855)

(Thanks to Gretel DeRuiter, instructor this week for “Walt Whitman: Cosmic Poet of the American People,” at the Chautauqua Institution, for drawing the attention of the class to this preface, a prose counterpart to his hymn to the American republic.)

No comments: