Uploaded on Sep 8, 2010
[The text is below.] This is my favorite part of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself (abridged) as read by James Earl Jones at the 92nd St. Y in New York City. A great portion for those who are struggling with life and death. You can hear the whole (incredible) recording at their website, here:
No copyright infringement intended, but this is my first video and what do I know. Best plan: Just listen. The writing follows.
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men? 115
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd. 120
All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her, it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-wash'd babe, and am not contain'd between my hat and boots; 125
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good;
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
I am not an earth, nor an adjunct of an earth;
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself;
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.) 130
Every kind for itself and its own—for me mine, male and female;
For me those that have been boys, and that love women;
For me the man that is proud, and feels how it stings to be slighted;
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid—for me mothers, and the mothers of mothers;
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears; 135
For me children, and the begetters of children.
Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale, nor discarded;
I see through the broadcloth and gingham, whether or no;
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.
These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands—they are not original with me;
If they are not yours as much as mine, they are nothing, or next to nothing;
If they are not the riddle, and the untying of the riddle, they are nothing;
If they are not just as close as they are distant, they are nothing. 350
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is, and the water is;
This is the common air that bathes the globe.
With music strong I come—with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only—I play great marches for conquer'd and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? 355
I also say it is good to fall—battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat and pound for the dead;
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
Vivas to those who have fail'd!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea! 360
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements! and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes, equal to the greatest heroes known.
This is the meal equally set—this is the meat for natural hunger;
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous—I make appointments with all; 365
I will not have a single person slighted or left away;
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited;
The heavy-lipp'd slave is invited—the venerealee is invited:
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.
This is the press of a bashful hand...