Whitman at 200, no. 3

Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday, 31 May 2019 — In a quotation that photographer Dorothea Lange took as her credo and that I could very well take as mine, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote, “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitute or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.” Whitman saw things as they are and celebrated them that way. He saw in animals an honesty and integrity often lacking in humans. The three dogs that live with us remind me of that, which is part of why we live with them. This is part of why I celebrate Whitman’s birthday and his sojourn with us, a sojourn that continues long after his death and will as long as poets are celebrated.

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

—from “Song of Myself,” 32.

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