Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two Brooklyn Boys-Specimen Days

-Here in this same ward are two young men from Brooklyn, members of the 51st New York. I had known both the two as young lads at home, so they seem near to me. One of them, J. L., lies there with an amputated arm, the stump healing pretty well. (I saw him lying on the ground at Fredericksburgh last December, all bloody, just after the arm was taken off. He was very phlegmatic about it, munching away at a cracker in the remaining hand -- made no fuss.) He will recover, and thinks and talks yet of meeting the Johnny Rebs.

--This one stuck with me mainly because of the dark humor that seeps through the horrific image of a man with a bloody stump of an arm munching on a cracker with his remaining hand in a phlegmatic manner.  The image is gory and we are even taken back to Fredericksburgh where he was seen lying on the ground but the horror of the scene is lightened by the fact that he not only made no fuss but maintained the will to eat.  He then goes on to say that the man will recover and it is said so plainly and lightly that it is difficult to even feel the seriousness of the entry or the permanent affect of the injury itself.  This brings out Whitman's continuing attitude that life as well as death cannot be taken too seriously.

Song of Myself lines

- All goes onward and outward....and nothing collapses,
  And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.

-These lines immediately caught my attention mainly because there is such simplicity paralleled with life and death, which are the broadest of concepts.  Although he is referring to death here and in the lines that precede these lines, it is with a positive and almost pleasurable tone, making death seem like such an easy feat to accept.  He states that "nothing collapses," which suggests the reincarnate quality of Earth and life and by describing it as only "onward and outward" there seems to be no room for negative connotation with regards to nature and way of things.  He then goes on to say that not only is death not what one generally expects but it is in fact "luckier," as if it is not something to be feared but something to be revered and possibly even anticipated.  He compares the luck of birth with the equal luck of death, which places weight evenly along the entire flow of life and evenly amongst all of us.  I like this because of the unity it creates not only among people but among all nature and life for all time.

The greatest poet...

...is a seer...he is individual...he is complete in himself...the others are as good as he, only he sees it and they do not.