My Sunday morning started with these words from Walt Whitman:
My science-friend, my noblest woman-friend,
(Now buried in an English grave–and this a memory-leaf for her dear sake,)
Ended our talk–“The sum, concluding all we know of old or modern
learning, intuitions deep,
“Of all Geologies–Histories–of all Astronomy–of Evolution,
“Is, that we all are onward, onward, speeding slowly, surely bettering,
“Life, life an endless march, an endless army, (no halt, but it is
“The world, the race, the soul–in space and time the universes,
“All bound as is befitting each–all surely going somewhere.”
…long, organic, rhythmic free verse. Ahhh…
Back in September I wrote a post about an interesting little web service called DailyLit. I had just signed up and received the first of 423 installments of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass via email. I spoke of how you could integrate small chunks of text like this into your school’s literacy program. Given that from age 14 to 18, and from AP Physics to PE, we read for different reasons and in different ways. For these reasons, I saw this service as an interesting and free way to add rich sources of text for classroom analysis, or even simply for volume or pleasure. As of today, it is the “pleasure principle” that made me check back in on this web entity.
Fast-forward to today’s email (you can also choose RSS) which contained installments 368 and 369 from Leaves of Grass. Grounding. Things like this can help to keep my head in check. I love it when the wisdom of brilliant and creative people from ages gone by is held up to the present for inspection, reflection- and in this case: inspiration. And by the way… which “Evolution” is he speaking of here? His capital “E” puts it on level with Geologies, Histories, Astronomy, and Metaphysics. Thus, in my mind, he speaks of Darwin’s fresh theory of biological evolution.
So this led me to a quick inquiry. What year again was Leaves of Grass first published? A quick check returns 1855. Now, I remembered reading about how Whitman constantly revised his works again and again. However, one only need know that the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was in 1859, to want to question this text a bit more. So apparently, between the first edition of Leaves in 1855, and the final in 1882, he changed not only verse and style… but content. I now have something to research for myself. Find the text from 1855. Do a comparison. I wonder what I will find. I wonder if any of you feel like helping me out in this endeavor. (?) Did I ever notice this date interplay prior to blogging about this poem today? No. No I didn’t.
Chalk up another win for the synthesis found within the act of blogging. I love it. I love what it does to my brain.
As I sat down to tap out the post this evening, I realized something really cool. What began as a rather humble re-blogging of a famous work of art from the 1800’s, has led to me evaluating text, inferring intent, and questioning context. Hmmm… I wonder if these are behaviors we seek to foster in our students. I wonder if blogging can help deliver this. In reality, this wonder contains less doubt and more certainty than it did less than a year ago for me.
So I leave you with installment #369 for your evening of March 22nd, 2009. God, I love these words:
SMALL THE THEME OF MY CHANT
Small the theme of my Chant, yet the greatest–namely, One’s-Self–
a simple, separate person. That, for the use of the New World, I sing.
Man’s physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing. Not physiognomy alone,
nor brain alone, is worthy for the Muse;–I say the Form complete
is worthier far. The Female equally with the Male, I sing.
Nor cease at the theme of One’s-Self. I speak the word of the
modern, the word En-Masse.
My Days I sing, and the Lands–with interstice I knew of hapless War.
(O friend, whoe’er you are, at last arriving hither to commence, I
feel through every leaf the pressure of your hand, which I return.
And thus upon our journey, footing the road, and more than once, and
link’d together let us go.)
*Artwork thanksEvolution in the trash. by nyc dreamer on Flickr .