Sunday, November 28, 2004


I was in Barnes and Noble at Friendly Center last night, waiting as my daughter browsed around in her new favorite books, the Artemis Fowl series.

I picked up Harold Bloom's anthology of English-language poetry, and opened at random to Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, which I don't think I've read since high school, when it meant absolutely nothing to me.

I was moved by his ability to love his country -- his whole country -- after the bitterness of the Civil War and in the midst of his overwhelming grief over Lincoln's assassination.

In those circumstances, only the greatest of souls could have written,

Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio’s shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover’d with grass and corn.

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

Read it all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This poem brought back a flood of memories; I sang Hindemith's setting of it with an alumni chorus on a trip to England and Russia in the summer of 2001, before America's belief in itself took a terrible hit. Thanks for reminding me.