Thursday, 10 January 2013

Poem: The Voice of the Rain

The Voice of the Rain

And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,

Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and
yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)

The poet Walt Whitman writes of a conversation he once had with the rain as it dropped gently from the heavens. 'Who are you?' the poet asked. Strangely, the raindrops replied and the poet translates its answer for the readers.

'I am the poem of the earth,' said the rain. The rain adds that it is born in the form of invisible and intangible vapours that rise eternally from the earth's land and deep water bodies. It then reaches heaven (the sky) and changes its appearance complete to form clouds of abstract, changeable shapes. Yet, at its core, it remains the same as it was at birth.

It then returns to earth as little droplets which wash away the dust and rejuvenate the drought-ridden, dry land. New plants find life which would have otherwise remained hidden and unborn inside the land as mere seeds. Thus, this perpetual cyclic lifestyle ensures that the rain retunes to its origin, the earth, giving it life, and making it pure and beautiful.

The poet realises that the rain's life is similar to that of any song. A song's birth place is the poet's heart. Once complete, it is passed on (wanders) from one person to another. It may change (reck'd) or remain the same (unreck'd) as it travels, but one day, it returns to the poet with all due love of the listeners.

The poem is written from the point of view of someone who asked the rain who it was and was answered, it saying "I am the poem of the Earth", then proceeding to tell how it comes from the earth, only to return once again to wash it and nourish it...that if it were not for the rain, seeds would remain seeds and not flower into their full back life to its origin. Then the poem's "turn" uses this story as a segway to show how "song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfillment, wandering, Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns." Meaning that songs come from the soul and after they've been heard, and thought good or bad, return with love. Just as rain rises and falls back again, so do poems, songs and other forms of beauty from the soul.

Poem: Adieu to a Soldier

Adieu To A Solider

ADIEU, O soldier!

You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,)
The rapid march, the life of the camp,
The hot contention of opposing fronts--the long manoeuver,
Red battles with their slaughter,--the stimulus--the strong, terrific
Spell of all brave and manly hearts--the trains of Time through you,
and like of you, all fill'd,
With war, and war's expression.

Adieu, dear comrade!
Your mission is fulfill'd--but I, more warlike,
Myself, and this contentious soul of mine, 10
Still on our own campaigning bound,
Through untried roads, with ambushes, opponents lined,
Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis--often baffled,
Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out--aye here,
To fiercer, weightier battles give expression. 

Walt Whitman's Adieu to a Soldier is the exploration of himself and a soldier fighting on opposite sides of a war. The poem portrays Whitman as being the perseverant soldier contrary to his fellow comrade fighting in the trenches. Through ambushes, muddy roads, and many crises the soldiers trudge on for the good of their country. The speaker is a soldier himself talking about his experiences on the "Opposing fronts", and "Red [bloody] battles (line 3,4)." This poem is a dedication to the warriors on the front lines their battle heroines of their nation.
The poem can also have the symbolic underlying layers of the battlefield representing life.  The one who passes away has a new more peaceful journey than the living who must stay on earth and often be uncertain of why life leads them on the twists and turns that it does.
On a literary level, Whitman used a common technique of his known as cataloging. With this device, Whitman will refer to long catalogues of lists. In this case, it was the vivid descriptions of battle life and what it is like to fight on. Whitman has a varied line length, some of which are quite long while others may have a single word, which gives it more emphasis. Whitman uses repetition with the word “adieu."  The word “adieu” itself has an effect on the poem, as it is a more formal, formal expression than using the more casual word “goodbye”.  There is no rhyme scheme or set form as it is a free verse poem.
Whitman’s poem “Adieu to a Soldier” is on first sight a fairly simple poem, but when it is read and analyzed, it is clearly an artistic and thoughtful portrayal of the ironic role of soldiers, the image of one dying on the battlefield contrasted with the one who lives only to have to continue to fight and kill.

Poem: A Clear Midnight

A Clear Midnight

THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou

lovest best.
Night, sleep, and the stars. 

Walt Whitman’s poem, “A Clear Midnight”, is the final poem in the section “From Noon to Starry Night” in the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass (1881). The poem is brief by Whitman’s standards – a single sentence comprised of only forty-two words. It is only four lines long: one quatrain. And yet it enacts a threshold experience, a visionary crossing, an incantation that delivers a sense of overpowering spiritual immensity.

Midnight is the moment of transition from one day to the next.  Whitman uses this moment as a metaphor for the transition from corporal existence to spiritual existence. The midnight described by Whitman is more than a mere moment of transition – the poet shows us a clear moment.  Nothing is hidden, nothing impairs the passage; there is nothing to fear. 

Whitman's poem exemplifies the correspondence between our inner and outer worlds. It is all about transport, about the imagination in cooperation and harmony with the universe. Whitman seems to address his soul to achieve that harmony. This is a dramatic utterance, but it is also a conjuration. Whitman is playing a magician to his own soul on our behalf. The real addressee of the incantation is the reader who exists on the distant horizon of the poem. I cannot help but feel that one part of the poem’s meaning is that the reader, too, has an imperishable soul. The poem wants to trigger that soul to dwell on the eternal. It would release something wordless and equivalent into any of us who read it.

“A Clear Midnight” is above all a comforting poem, depicting a natural transition from corporeal existence to spiritual existence.  

His time....

The great poet of the nineteenth century, Walt Whitman, once said that "democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools, theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced anywhere...". Walt Whitman did just that during his many years of life by producing poetry and essays that changed the way Americans thought. His words were the influential keystone that gave the Americans hope during the Civil War, and after its conclusion. He aided the sick, gave the common man hope, and showed  dreams of democracy and a land free of turmoil and sectionalism. Throughout Whitman's life, there were many things that influenced his character and ideas but his biggest achievement was his role in the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War, both physically and mentally.

Whitman's style of writing can be clearly correlated to his childhood, and his free spiritedness and individualism was a main factor is his writing. Whitman had a very unique and controversial style of writing, especially for his time, and his views and ideas did not always match up with the social structure of America. In many of his writings, the theme of sex is readily seen and he was not ashamed to discuss his dreams, despite living in a time of secrecy and humbleness. He was never afraid to express his accomplishments or ideals in his work and he wrote like a strong American, which was what the United States needed at that time.

The Civil War was a long, arduous war that dragged out for many years. It was very bloody and many of its soldiers died in combat. After Civil War, a glorious period of rebuilding, known as the Reconstruction Era, began, and many people chose to help out in their own unique way. Walt Whitman was no exception, and throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction Era he helped the American citizens get their life back on the track to success, with his works and pieces of literature. His essays and poems created a tremendous picture of democracy, and they gave the Americans hope that their country could be rebuilt into the strong nation that it once was.

The Legend: Walt Whitman

Walter Whitman, was born on the 31st of May, 1819 in Long Island, New York, US. He was an essayist, poet and journalist, as well as a volunteer nurse in the course of the American Civil War (1861–65). Walt Whitman participated in the shift from transcendentalism towards realism, and both views are present in his works. Walt Whitman, being one of the most influential American poets, is often referred to as "the father of the free verse".

Walt Whitman was the second of nine children and received his nickname, "Walt". Walt Whitman's childhood was usually described by himself as unhappy, mainly due to the economic struggles of his family. After concluding his formal schooling at the age of 11, Walt Whitman searched for jobs, first as an office boy and later as an apprentice for a newspaper, so as to help with the family income. In the end of the 30s, Whitman left for New York where he published many poems, short stories and a novel, Franklin Evans, or the Inebriate, all works considered unremarkable. Also in this period Whitman made use of a constructed persona for writing a series of essays called Sun-Down Papers—From the Desk of a Schoolmaster, a skill that he employed many times throughout his career. In 1940 he was accused of having homosexual relations with some of his students at the Locust Grove School in New York. In 1948 he lost his position at the Brooklyn Eagle for siding politically in opposition with the conservative newspaper owner.

Walt Whitman’s writings, specifically Leaves of Grass, a collection of poems, were often highly controversial for what was seen as an obscene and excessively sexual language. Leaves of Grass was first published with Whitman's own money in 1855 and was described by himself to be an attempt at reaching the common person through an American epic. Inside as well as outside his poetry, Walt Whitman exposed his views on the abolition of slavery, an egalitarian view on races, even if later in his life he saw abolition as a potential threat to democracy. Whitman received little money with the first edition of Leaves of Grass, but he did receive some attention, including a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson. The second edition in 1860 with the "Calamus" poems and the third edition of Leaves created controversy for readers, but the Civil War turned all eyes on the battlefields.

Walt Whitman is claimed to be the first American "poet of democracy", referring to his singularly American style and use of common people as subject matter. Many critics pointed to the close relation between the America of this period and his poetry. Walt Whitman himself conceptualized poetry as being in a symbiotic relationship with society. The literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass is perhaps the highest candidate for being the “secular scripture of the United States”, beatings works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain. His poetry was also used in music by great many composers. The house where Walt Whitman spent the last years of his life, in Camden, New Jersey, US, is open to the public and known as the Walt Whitman House.