Yesterday, the post was on Emily Dickinson though the name of Walt Whitman was mentioned. I had promised to keep Walt Whitman for today so as to give full justice to great poet. The entire collection is right here at Bartelby.

I will quote selections from the poem “Passage To India“, a poem written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. It begins thus:

SINGING my days,
Singing the great achievements of the present,
Singing the strong, light works of engineers,
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,
The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires,
I sound, to commence, the cry, with thee, O soul,
The Past! the Past! the Past!

The metaphorical allusion to a bridge between modernity (New World) and tradition (Old World) is being made here.

Passage, O soul, to India!
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic—the primitive fables.

The passage to India is now open, so he calls upon all to sail forth.

(Ah Genoese, thy dream! thy dream!
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream!)

A reference to the famous Genoese, Christopher Columbus, whose dream is now fulfilled in America, the country he discovered.

Again Vasco de Gama sails forth;
Again the knowledge gain’d, the mariner’s compass,
Lands found, and nations born—thou born, America, (a hemisphere unborn,)
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou, rondure of the world, at last accomplish’d.

Allusions to famous explorers and specifically Vasco Da Gama, who sailed round Africa to find India. Like him many others found new lands, including America.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

In the end, he pleads all to go further and further, far beyond they have ever been.  To travel to new lands, to see new things. Could it be a metaphorical allusion to ignorance?


One thought on “Poetry Posts – Walt Whitman

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