March 27, 2014

"A child said, What is the grass?"


A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among whites,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

-- Walt Whitman
lines 90-101
from Leaves of Grass

8 comments:

  1. Ah, thanks for this reminder of grass (and lovely old words) on this snow-covered late March morning. I can't wait to walk into summer with our boys' hands in ours.

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    1. Ohmyyes, Robin. Yes and yes. As much as I loved my boy's enchantment with the huge flakes that fell from the sky yesterday afternoon, I'm over the actual snow. Green grass! May it tickle our feet soon.

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  2. How could I have forgotten this wonderful passage? or all the other wonderful passages from this poem? I especially like, "I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven."

    What a precious, memorable spring lies ahead. May it be so for you, but also for us all.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. You as well! I'm rereading the poem this week (I've forgotten how long it is!), and I keep getting swept up in all its different and diaphanous parts. Spring must certainly have arrived for you, yes? I am trying to wait patiently. :)

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  3. That is a wonderful excerpt to publish as the snow melts and lifts back the blanket of winter that has keep the grass snug while it slept. Ah, you've put me in a much more poetic frame of mind.

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    1. I'm glad. And yes, I thought about going out and taking photos of the melting world and publishing those here, but really I'm just ready for spring to show itself without the white drape. Soon, Kathleen, soon!

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  4. I've never read this Whitman piece before. How wonderful! It completely captures a child-like quality and at the same time explores our inner most curiosity. So beautiful!

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  5. Yes, it was a treat to rediscover. Happy spring, Bill! Is the grass finally green where you are?

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