One sad thing I notice in the Longaker is how different Whitman’s view of his own body has become, now that it’s shutting down. Here was the speaker of “Song” in 1855:
The smoke of my own breath,
|Echos, ripples, and buzzed whispers . . . . loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine,|
| My respiration and inspiration . . . . the beating of my heart . . . . the passing of blood
and air through my lungs,
| The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and darkcolored sea-
rocks, and of hay in the barn,
| The sound of the belched words of my voice . . . . words loosed to the eddies of
|A few light kisses . . . . a few embraces . . . . a reaching around of arms,|
|The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,|
|The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hillsides,|
The feeling of health . . . . the full-noon trill . . . . the song of me rising from bed
and meeting the sun.
He loves his body, but he’s just barely contained in it; from the way he talks, we’d think ourselves just as likely find him in a ray of sunlight or a duckling. So different from his awful physiological imprisonment in 1891:
My great corpus is like an old wooden log . . . One favorable item at 10, a bowel movement (the first in ten days) . . .
And so forth. He had been accused of such obscene physicality earlier on–but it’s only now that his writing really starts attending to the day-to-day life of his body, now that that body becomes his whole, urgent environment.
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