Monday, August 3, 2009

"Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances" ~ Walt Whitman

Band of Thebes reports J.K. Rowling has selected as her all-time favourite poem, Walt Whitman's "Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances," from Leaves of Grass. In his typically direct and unambiguous style, Whitman says that when the all the things he doesn't know or can't be certain of stress him out, his male lovers calm him down. Those many doubts no longer matter because " he ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me." Watch how the rhythms build, climax, and relax.

Of the terrible doubt of appearances,
Of the uncertainty after all—that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations
after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful
fable only,
May-be the things I perceive—the animals, plants, men,
hills, shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night—colors, densities, forms—
May-be these are, (as doubtless they are,) only
apparitions, and the real something has yet to be
(How often they dart out of themselves, as if to con-
found me and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,
aught of them;)
May-be seeming to me what they are, (as doubtless
they indeed but seem,) as from my present point
of view—And might prove, (as of course they
would,) naught of what they appear, or naught
anyhow, from entirely changed points of view;
—To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously
answer'd by my lovers, my dear friends;
When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long
while holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that
words and reason hold not, surround us and
pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom
—I am silent—I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that
of identity beyond the grave;
But I walk or sit indifferent—I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These doubts come to all of us. A close conecting friend is very stabilizing. Going completely naked of all external adornment and exiting the world of pretense (if ever so briefly) to visit the natural world of God's creation sets the stage for meditation and contemplation. Being naked under the wing of the blue herron and the watchful eye of the deer, and next to the free floating fish in their own water can set perspectives back in the proper order of things.

One needs from time to time to get the psychic immune system recharged to provide protection against the vagaries of modern existance. Study of history may refeal that "modern" is only relative. Man has needed recharging ever since he was created.

Billy Lilstones (Rocky)