(Author’s note: With the recent shootings at Ft. Hood and the memories of Veteran’s Day just passed, I turned to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, whose view of humanity, the soul and the barbarity of war offer some solace. Herewith a sampling.)
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and
knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broad-
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation
For you only, and not for him or her?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood un-
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more
beautiful than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.