The idea which looms and towers over the rest is the idea of totality.
Something that fully satisfies—that something is the All, and the idea of the All—the idea of totality—with the accompanying idea of eternity.
The idea of the infinite is the rudder and compass sure amid this troublous voyage,
O’er darkest, wildest wave, through stormiest wind, of man’s or nation’s progress,
Whoso dilates to the idea of the infinite holds the clue of all grandeur, as all meaning.
Standing on this ground—the last, the highest, only permanent ground—we have peremptorily to dismiss every production, however fine its esthetic or intellectual points, which violates or ignores, or even does not celebrate, the central divine idea of the All.
What is narrower than gravitation, light, life—or less than vast stretches of time, or the slow formation of density, or the patient upheaving of strata—is of no account.
The human soul will not own any limit, even the widest;
It escapes utterly from all limits, dogmatic standards, and measurements,
Adjusts itself to the ideas of God, of space, and of eternity,
And sails them at will as oceans, and fills them as beds of oceans.
If we could fix the line beyond which there was no more material universe, our soul, I think, would pine and begin its death sickness.
Lit with the infinite, I have the idea of the All,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of time and space and death, like waters flowing,
Bear me indeed as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear, floating on vast and mystic currents.
Wonderful how my thoughts play subtly at the spectacles around,
To pore with ceaseless fervor over the myth of the infinite—
If they do not enclose everything they are next to nothing.
Infinitude the flight; fathomless the mystery;
Sure as the most certain sure, affectionate, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
O to realize the great spheres, time and space!
The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds.
Of all the plenty there is, no plenty is comparable to the plenty of the beginningless, endless wonder, time, and the other wonder, space,
Of these there is ample store—there is no limit.
Count ever so much, there is limitless time around that,
See ever so far, there is limitless space outside of that,
A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillions of cubic leagues, do not hazard the span or make it impatient.
The shapeless vastnesses of space, vast trackless spaces—
Interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have their exteriors,
My sun has his sun and round him obediently wheels,
He joins with his partners a group of superior circuit,
And greater sets follow, making specks of the greatest inside them.
Wider and wider they spread,
The bulging universe unfolding, expanding, always expanding,
Life in the universe—a vast circular procession, whose rings expand outward and outward, forever outward,
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses.
Now while the great thoughts of space and eternity fill me I will measure myself by them.
I know I have the best of time and space,
And was never measured and never will be measured,
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless,
In vain I try to think how limitless.
Limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein, and poke-weed.
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
They are but parts, anything is but a part,
Myriad-twining life, like interlacing vines, binds all,
All is inextricable—things, spirits, nature, nations, you too.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All men and women,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future—
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them, and compactly hold and enclose them.
All parts of the universe bear reference to each other,
(All other things therefore bear down their influence more or less upon this earth,)
Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next,
Each answering all, each sharing the universe with all,
All referring to all yet each distinct and in its place,
All free yet all held inseparably,
Interlaced, composite, many in one.
One part does not counteract another part,
The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and unite,
They unite now—the flowing eternal identity,
The varied All distill’d and sublimated into one.
I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to ensemble.
Have I forgotten any part?
Come to me whoever and whatever, till I give you recognition,
I the ensemble seek to give,
Ensemble is the word that epitomises the philosophy of Walt Whitman.
All must have reference to the ensemble of the universe—
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d universe.
NEXT: TIME AND CHANGE