Erin M. for Oct. 20th

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Song of Myself in Prose

This week’s reading of the rest of Speciman Days was to me, Song of Myself in prose. This last portion of Walt’s journals take place after his return from the war when his is back in the South Jersey/ Camden area. Immediately from the start of his entry entitled “New Themes Entered Upon” we realize that we have left the darkness of war and the battlefield behind. Instead Whitman has returned to his lazy days in the grass where we first met him in Song of Myself with odes to nature with early entries like “Entering A Long Farm-Lane”, “To The Spring and Brook”, “An Early Summer Reveille”, “Birds Migrating at Midnight” and “Bumblebees” (p 803-810).

With the post “A Sun Bath-Nakedness” Whitman begins to further develop his major theme of love of nature and speaks of nature’s beauty and greatness as it applies to his own health. As we know from the note on page 713 Whitman wrote this portion of his journals in ill health, after a stroke and here with entries like the sun bath entry Whitman speaks of nature’s wonder as the thing that has healed his spirit and keeps his outlook bright. He writes, “…to what do I attribute my already much restored health? That I  have been almost two years, off and on, without drugs and medicines, and daily in the open air” (830). He continues the entry, describing the sun bathing process and finally attributes his nakedness  largely to his rehabilitation (832). Then, in “The Oaks and I” he writes of the strength he gains from the oak trees, just as the sun restored him during his subbath the oak trees renew his strength during a morning walk. On page 832 he writes:

 “shelter’d under a dense oak by the bank, where I have taken refuge from a sudden rain. I came down here…for the before-mention’d exercise I am fond of— to pull on that young hickory sappling out there…haply to get into my old sinews some of its elastic fibre and clear sap…I can soon feel the sap and sinew rising through me, like mercury to heat. I hold on boughs or slender trees caressingly there in the sun and shade, wrestle with their innocent stalwartness—and I know the virtue thereof passes into me”.

He continues, giving gratitude to all of Nature for its healing properties: “Thanks, invisible physician, for thy silent delicious medicine, thy day and night, thy waters and thy airs, the banks, the grass, the trees and e’en the weeds”(833).

Next,  in entries such as “February Days”, where he mentions the songs of the robins and blue birds (838), Whitman is praising the healing aspects of Nature’s animals while entries such as “Horse Mint”, “Clover and Hay Perfume and even “Happiness and Raspberries” praise the power of scent on the human spirit.

With, the end of Whitman’s Specimen Days, he has given us a visceral, almost palpable report of the world around us and the healing properties they possess if we just approach them in the right state of mind. A trip to the Jersey shore can do wonders for our outlook, just by being in the sun and breathing in the ocean salts. I know this from experience. There are times when I just need to be at the ocean, somehow it lets you escape something that is bothering  you and revives you somehow. Besides the shore Whitman visits Manhattan and loves that just as much (and any trip he takes on the ferry for that matter).  Finally, Whitman also noticed that colors of things have an affect on our mental state and well-being(Straw Color’d and Other Psyches p. 852).

Thanks to Whitman for the reminder to return to nature occassionally to glean whatever it has to give me. And to always do my best to remain an optimist. Maybe we should all slow down a bit, stop worrying or being too busy and take some time to sun bathe naked or gain strength from oaks; after all it’s the healthy thing to do, Whitman says!


2 Responses to “Erin M. for Oct. 20th”

  1. lovelyd523 Says:
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    I think this was a very good comparison to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” This was a good post.

  2. bcbottle Says:
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    I really enjoyed this post. A lot of the reason is because I’d started to forget about this Whitman. In the UMW class we’ve been focusing on the civil war period and I’d started to lose sight of the Whitman who reveled in nature and found solace there rather than the Whitman speaking of blood and death, as powerful as his Civil War poetry is, it’s also a different tone. I appreciate the reminder, I missed him.

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