I walk solitary, unattended,
An interval passing at vacancy with nature, acceptive and at ease,
Sane, random, negligent hours,
Wandering the negligent paths.
Every day, seclusion,
Every day at least two or three hours of freedom,
Withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess.
The fretting world, the streets, the noisy hours of day withdraw,
No talk, no bonds, no dress, no manners,
No longer abash’d,
For in this secluded spot—
The soothing silence, far from the clank of crowds,
Away from books, away from art—the lesson learn’d, pass’d o’er—
I can respond as I would not dare elsewhere.
Hungering for primal energies and nature’s dauntlessness,
I refresh myself with it only, I could relish it only,
Returning to the naked source-life of us all—to the breast of the great silent savage all-acceptive mother,
(Alas! how many have wander’d so far away, that return is almost impossible,)
Distilling the present hour, whatever, wherever it is,
And over the past, oblivion.
Give me again O nature your primal sanities!
Thou hast, O nature! elements! utterance to my heart beyond the rest,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and forests.
Nothing can exceed the quiet splendor and freshness, the fresh scent, the peace, the naturalness all around me,
Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun;
I feel the sky, the prairies vast,
I feel the ocean and the forest,
Somehow I feel the globe itself swift-swimming in space.
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire, falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog by my side,
Never before did I get so close to nature—absolute and unqualified acceptance of nature—
Never before did she come so close to me.
I stand or sit, musing—thoughts that are the hymns of the praise of things,
Largely learn’d from nature’s schooling.
Nature is naked, and I am also. Sweet, sane, still nakedness in nature! Ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity might really know you once more!
The inner never-lost rapport we hold with earth, light, air, trees, etc., is not to be realized through eyes and mind only, but through the whole corporeal body.
Is not nakedness then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent. Perhaps indeed he or she to whom the free exhilarating ecstasy of nakedness in nature has never been eligible (and how many thousands there are!) has not really known what purity is—nor what faith or art or health really is.
Amid this wild, free scene, how healthy, how joyous, how clean and vigorous and sweet!
It seems indeed as if peace and nutriment from heaven subtly filter into me here in solitude with nature,
The holy calming power of nature, nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed.
The disturb’d passions and the feverish conflict subsided,
My sane or sick spirit here as near at peace as it can be,
All is peace here, I am satisfied.
Rapt and happy, amid this wild, free scene,
Nature’s amelioration blessing all,
Soothing, bathing, merging all,
Here I realize the meaning of that old fellow who said he was seldom less alone than when alone.
But am I alone?
How is it that in all the serenity and lonesomeness of solitude, one is never entirely without the instinct of looking around for somebody to start up out of the earth, or from behind some tree or rock? Seems as if something unknown were possibly lurking in those solitary places. Nay, it is quite certain there is—some vital unseen presence.
Doubtless there comes a time—perhaps it has come to me—when one feels through his whole being, and pronouncedly the emotional part, that identity between himself subjectively and nature objectively—the microcosm and macrocosm—
For nature consists not only in itself, objectively, but at least just as much in its subjective reflection from the person, spirit, age, looking at it, in the midst of it, and absorbing it—faithfully sends back the characteristic beliefs of the time or individual.
The mirror that nature holds is deep and floating and ethereal and faithful—
A clean bright mirror, a magical wondrous mirror,
It will show you all you can conceive of, all you wish to behold.
We see the world of materials, nature with all its objects, processes, shows, reflecting the human spirit and by such reflection formulating, identifying, developing and proving it;
If a man always sees himself in it, it reflects the fashion of his gods and all his religions and politics and books and art and social and public institutions,
Ignorance or knowledge, kindness or cruelty, grossness or refinement, definitions or chaos—each is unerringly sent back to him or her who curiously gazes.
I merge myself in the scene, in the perfect day,
I see my soul reflected in nature—
I am Walt Whitman, turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking, and breeding,
Liberal and lusty as nature.
Here I sit in solitude, absorbing, enjoying all, with a perfect sense of the oneness of nature and the propriety of the same spirit applied to human affairs.
As I beheld the universe, I thought the things of nature as in the main suggestive and gymnastic,
Not great because of objects and events themselves, but great in reference to a human personality and for identity, and only thus of any service—
For what to you or me is this round universe, with all life’s involv’d and varied pageants of success and failure, except as touching you and me?
Such is the hint that, coming in, whispers to me, and out of it I chant the following poems.
How vast, how eligible, how joyful, how real, is a human being, himself or herself,
As boundless, joyous, and vital as nature itself—
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense and interminable as they.
Nature is only what is entertainable by the physical conscience, the sense of matter—
Man, comprehending these, has, in towering superaddition, the moral and spiritual consciences, indicating his destination beyond the ostensible, the mortal.
He alone has the quality of understanding and telling how divine a thing an animal is, what life, matter, passion, volition are,
He only can celebrate things, animals, and landscapes.
He is to be the seer of nature,
His mentality is a quality to be used toward things, as his vision is used.
Nature, gently, by her living laws, would stimulate the mind to ever-fresh discoveries, and fresh inventions, which bring serene delight—
If he depart from animals and things he is lost.
Virtue, (said Marcus Aurelius,) what is it, only a living and enthusiastic sympathy with nature.
There is a subtle something in the common earth, crops, cattle, air, trees, etc., and in having to do at first hand with them, that forms the only purifying and perennial element for individuals and for society;
The use of finding the great materialistic laws is to make politics, lives, manners, and all plans of the soul no less than they.
Perhaps indeed the efforts of the true poets, founders, religions, literatures, all ages, have been, and ever will be, our time and times to come, essentially the same—
To bring people back from their persistent strayings and sickly abstractions, to the costless, average, divine, original concrete,
To bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures)—
The open air, the loving day, the mounting sun, and the stars of heaven by night—the changes of seasons,
The trees, fields, the rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones.
I am convinced that there are really very few people who know how to enjoy the country,
It is a pity that folks don’t enjoy themselves in a more free and easy manner.
Come, ye disconsolate, in whom any latent eligibility is left,
Come get the sure virtues of creek-shore, and wood, and field.
Is nature rude, free, irregular? If nature be so, do you too be so,
Do you suppose nature has nothing under those beautiful, terrible, irrational forms?
Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
How long we were fooled!
Now delicious, transmuted, we swiftly escape, as nature escapes,
We are nature—
We are bedded in the ground,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are what locust blossoms are,
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables, minerals,
We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods, we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons driving overhead.
Long have we been absent, but now we return,
The separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, journeymen come home—
Abandon we ourselves to nature’s primal mode again.
The exile returns home, renascent with grossest nature,
To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of nature,
To put rapport the mountains and rocks and streams,
And the winds of the north, and the forests of oak and pine,
With you O soul.
Before the fitting man all nature yields,
The skies, trees, hear his voice.
To the rocks I calling sing, and all the trees in the woods,
To the plains, to the far-off sea, and the unseen winds, and the sane impalpable air:
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you O woods and fields! of you strong mountains of my land!
O clouds! O rain and snows! passage to you!
And responding they answer all,
A flutter at the darkness’ edge as if old time’s and space’s near revealing!
But not in words—
In cries, laughter, defiances, thrown from me when alone far in the wilds.
Man and art with nature fused again,
I permit to speak, at every hazard, nature—open, voiceless, mystic, far removed, yet palpable, eloquent—without check, with original energy.
Every acre of the land and sea affords me a hint of the whole spread of nature—gases and waters, minerals, vegetables, animals—
With her eternal unsophisticated freshness, her never-visited recesses of sea, sky, shore.
I must follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth,
From the landscape or waters or from the exquisite apparition of the sky,
The profound earth and its attributes and the unquiet ocean—
I perceive I have no time to lose.
NEXT: IN THE AIR