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Prayers for Today: Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892). The revolution created by Leaves of Grass was first celebrated by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he spoke of the poems as “America’s most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom.”


Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling,
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,
Give me a field where the unmowed grass grows,
Give me an arbor, give me the trellised grape,
Give me fresh corn and wheat, give me serene-moving animals
teaching content,
Give me nights perfectly quiet as on high plateaus west of the
Mississippi and I looking up at the stars,
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I
can walk undisturbed,
Give me for marriage a sweet-breathed woman of whom I should
never tire,
Give me a perfect child, give me a way aside from the noise of the
world, a rural domestic life,
Give me to warble spontaneous songs reclusive by myself,
Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again, O Nature, your
primal sanities!


How admirable—the cool-breathed earth!
Earth of the slumbering liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunsets!
Earth of the mountains!
Earth of the full moon tinged with blue!
Earth of the limpid grey of clouds!
Far-swooping, elbow’d earth!
Rich apple-blossomed earth!
How reverence-waking—the voluptuous earth!


I cannot rest, O God; I cannot eat or drink or sleep
Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to You,
Breathe, bathe myself once more in You, commune with You,
Report myself once more to You.
You know my years entire, my life,
My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration merely,
You know the prayers and vigils of my youth,
You know my later solemn and visionary meditations;
You know how, before I commenced, I devoted all to come to You,
Accepting all from You, as duly comes from You.
All my undertakings have been filled with You:
The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will.
O, I am sure they really came from You.
The end I know not; it is all in You.
You have lighted my life, O God,
With array of light, steady, ineffable,
Light rare untellable, lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages;
For that, O God, I thank You.


Why should I wish to see You better than this day?
I see something of You in each hour of the twenty-four,
and each moment then;
In the faces of men and women I see You, and in my own face in
the glass.
I find letters from You dropped in the street, and every one is signed
by Your name;

And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.