May 7, 2010

“Ben, I think you let that seminar go to your head”

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 9:45 pm

This is the quote I got today from one of my friends, and yes maybe it is true but frankly, I don’t care.  Now you might ask yourself “Self? why would Ben be in a situation where he would even have to worry about whether or not he was to wrapped up in this class.  Now those of you who know me, know that I keep my body rather decorated, and I knew that I wanted a graduation tattoo, and that being an english major it was going to end up as text.  My back left shoulder now says “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then….I contradict myself/I am large….I contain multitudes./Walt Whitman/May 8th, 2010”.  So maybe I did let Whitman go a bit to my head, but is this a bad thing?  I think not.


The Tattooed Camerado,


December 10, 2009

Ben’s Final Project, A Kosmos of Voices

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 6:23 pm

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Ben Brishcar

Digital Whitman



A Kosmos of Voices

            When I was given the option of a nonstandard project for the final for this class, my brain started boggling with options.  Immediately the traditional seminar paper was out the window and my head started going towards the many other options.  Now like many papers and possibly more projects, this one went through many different variations before incarnation in the attached link.

            It started with the far to quixotic undertaking of doing a video in which different people would read one to two words of a section of “Song of Myself” and then splice all the video together into one epic montage.  This was, needless to say, to big of a task and never got off the ground.  The roots where there though for this project.  The next version came with my looking over of my blog posts for most of the semester and realizing that so much of my focus has been on Whitman’s narrative voice that to do a project and leave this issue of voice out of it, would be doing myself a disservice.

            The question arising out of this then, was where to go with Whitman’s voice.  The answer then, came from some of my studies in performance.  Things always sound different when they are read out loud.  Also, with this being a project that focused highly on the idea of ‘voice’ it seemed to call for some sort of audio enhancement.  Now, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with the audio, but to many ideas of what to do with the video.  For a while I was throwing around the idea of taping the readers and trying to get their videos to sink up, in much the same way as my first conception of the project.  The fear I had with this, though, was that there would be to much chaos from back and forth cuts, that I would lose the meaning of the voice in all the images.  From there it went to the idea of some sort of slide show, either of pictures of Whitman or of the text of the poem.  Where both of these ideas got dropped was that I really wanted this to be an audio experience and did not want people distracted by the images.

            I finally settled on one iconic image of Whitman to run throughout the entire piece.  The reason I left any visual at all was because I wanted this piece to go up through YouTube and have it accessible to more than just our blog.  My feeling on the spirit of this class and the entire idea of a nontraditional project is that it should transcend the boundaries of the semester and stay up as a resource for others to use.  In other words, I was not just building something for a grade, I was building something people will hopefully want to use in the future.

            As far as the video itself functions, it was designed as an experimental look at voice.  The idea was to combine a group of readers, each one embodying a different narrative voice found within Whitman’s poetry.  These seven different voices were then going to bounce off each other to highlight similarities and differences within one section of poem.  The readings were kept to two specific sequential sections of “Song of Myself”, namely sections 44 and 45; by using two sections instead of picking and choosing between multiple sections of Whitman, two things where accomplished.  First, it eliminates much of the debate along the lines of ‘of course I found all these voices, I went out and dug through his full body of work,’ and second and more important of the two, it kept all of these separate voices still within one section of Whitman.  I was already splitting up his voice, but by giving all the readings within one section, I was keeping it all congealed into one Whitman.

            As far as cast list goes for this project, the seven voices I presented were: the Prophetic Whitman, voiced by Professor Gray Richards; Whitman the Good Grey Poet, voiced by Professor Claudia Emerson; the Womanly Whitman, voiced by Professor Mara Scanlon; the Natural Whitman, voiced by Dean Cedric Rucker; Whitman as Witness, voiced by Professor Ana Chichester; the Nurse Whitman, voiced by Taylor Williams, and the Sexual Whitman, voiced by Katie O’Connor.

            To help better put this project into focus, here is how I defined each voice when looking through the poem.  The Prophetic Whitman was the voice that was talking whenever Whitman is casting things beyond himself and reaching for things far beyond the grasp of what normal people could know, this is as close to a metaphysical Whitman as is seen in these sections of “Song of Myself”.  Whitman, the Good Grey Poet, is the type of voice one would expect Whitman to pick up while sitting in a rocking chair and talking to someone; this is the more introspective Whitman, where as the prophet reaches out, the Good Grey Poet reaches in.  The Nurse Whitman is the Whitman that reaches out to his readers or his audience.  The title comes from the image of Whitman sitting next to the men he was nursing during and after the Civil War, hearing their stories and talking directly to them.  The Womanly Whitman is the Whitman in touch with the more motherly feminine side of himself.  The Natural Whitman is the Whitman of the dirt and the soil, the one who goes back to the earth for his imagery.   Walt Whitman as Witness is the Whitman that steps back a bit and looks at what is going on; this voice does not have the all encompassing aspects of the Prophet Whitman, as it is not a voice of announcement, but rather a voice of being separate and reflective.  The Sexual Whitman really needs no explaining, in that if one is to deny the inherent thrusting force of intimacy in Whitman’s poetry, then one is doing a terrible misreading.

            As far as what I’ve discovered from this project is honestly difficult to say.  This experiment was not a failure, as I feel that I have learned much about Whitman’s voice, and I feel that those that watch my video can take away much about Whitman’s voice.  However, upon repeated listening to the audio file, I find that by pulling his voice apart, although I can hear more of the distinct voices differently, I also hear the singular multifaceted voice of Whitman that much more.  It seems counter intuitive but the farther apart the pieces where, the more it sounded like one voice.  One of the first questions I asked myself when I approached what was to become the final version of the project, was would looking at the voices in the piece separately lead to a better understanding of the contradictions and comparisons within the one overarching voice, or would it just be a matter of staring at the Kosmos, so to speak.  I think in this case, what I’ve found is that Whitman’s voice exists because of the contradictions there in and the separate pieces contribute to one larger organism that would not exist without them.


Works Cited

Black, Stephen A. “Radical Utterances from the Soul’s Abysms: Toward a new Sense of Whitman.” PMLQ 88.1 (1973): 100-11. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.

Hutchinson, George B. “Whitman’s Confidence Game: The “Good Gray Poet” and the Civil War.” South Central Review 7 (1990): 20-35. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.

Jay, Gregory. “Catching up with Whitman: A Review Essay.” South Atlantic Review 57.1 (1992): 89-102. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.

Killingsworth, Myrth J. “Whitman and Motherhood: A Historical View.” American Literature 54.1 (1982): 28-43. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009.

Stovall, Floyd. “Main Drifts in Whitman’s Poetry.” American Literature 4.1 (1932): 3-21. JSTOR. Web. 5 Dec. 2009

November 17, 2009

Where Ben found Walt Whitman

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 5:31 pm

Hey all, so as so much of our focus has been on the Civil War Whitman, I decided to go back to the battlefield where the Civil War really started for Whitman.  So here I am on the Fredericksburg battlefield.

Ben finding Whitman

November 15, 2009

Ben for 11/17 in which he geeks out about Ginsberg

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 6:09 pm

Ok, ladies, gentleman, boys, girls, and Whitmaniacs of all ages, we have hit the point where I might just lose my cool and start fanboying out completely.  See there are two poets that served as my gateway drug into poetry, and they are possibly still my two favorite poets.  The first is T S Eliot, who we are obviously not talking about today, but the other is the infamous beat poet, Allan Ginsberg.  See, this Whitman/Ginsberg connection started with me in high school, where I was in the poetry event in forensics with a paring of “I Hear America Singing” by Whitman, and “A Supermarket in California” by Ginsberg, and predictably, I completely flopped with it, mostly because I was not using a traditionally narrative poem.  That being said, Ginsberg was my original pathway to Whitman, and this is the moment I’ve been waiting for patiently all semester.

Ok, now that that bit of personal history is out of the way, it is not surprising at all to see why Ginsberg felt such closeness with Uncle Walt.  First, the were both writing out of periods of incredible redefinition of America, what it was as a country, and perhaps more so, what it was as an ideal.  In the same way that Whitman claims that Leaves of Grass could not have existed without the Civil War, Ginsberg’s entire generation of writers could not have existed without World War II.  The phrase “The Beat Generation” stems from the concept that the generation following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had received a ‘beat deal’ and it was a generation of those lost.  Namely, how could one trust in an America that resorted to an act of such destruction to win a war?  Where, though, we see Whitman lining up his idea for a new America with himself, as it’s grand high poet, Ginsberg is lost and searching.  This might be why there is so much of the structure of Whitman’s poetry reinvented in Ginsberg’s work.  Whitman had the answers, Ginsberg just has questions.

Likewise, they both were at the cutting edge for poetry in their time, coming out of New York with a new idea of how they wanted the world to function and how they could change the world with their work.  Between this and Whitman as one of a handful of gay role models running around, it is not wonder Ginsberg gravitated towards his work.  Here was someone for a young, gay poet to model himself after.  This both shows up in the blatant sexuality of ‘Howl’, which functions as much as a ranting beast of a poem as “Song of Myself” in some spots, and how ‘Howl’ mimics this focus on the body as a mystic thing, a very Whitmanic turn of phrase.  This closeness with Whitman, though is not more obvious anywhere else as it is in “A Supermarket in California” where Ginsberg describes a very odd date between himself and Whitman and uses it as a springboard to describe how Whitman’s America was so distant from the America that Ginsberg lives in that he cannot imagine it, thus the reference to Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in Greek mythology.  I guess though, that seeing this is a blog post and not my personal soapbox to rant about the amazingness that results as a combination of these two poets, I will stop myself here, but anyone else who posts on Ginsberg beware, as I might be in the supermarket of your posts, eyeing your grocery boys.

November 10, 2009

Ben for 11/10

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 11:00 am

The definitive Walt Whitman, or How to name a Kosmos.


Walt Whitman provides a wonderful complication when attempting to box him in to a specific anthology.  One could almost say that he includes multitudes, that is if he did not already say it himself.  We have spent the entire semester looking for Whitman, a sometimes daunting, sometimes frightening, although mostly entertaining venture that has led us the one question that was both bound to happen, and rather impossible to answer.  Which Walt do we put down for the annals of history?  Or we could even attempt to simplify the question and say, ‘which is the definitive edition of Leaves of Grass?’

The answer that immediately comes to mind for that question the Deathbed Edition.  This version certainly has its merits.  It is perhaps the most accessible of all the versions, as it lacks the breathlessness of the 1855 version or the stifling structure of the workbook edition, some how finding a happy medium between the two.  Also,  if academia is keeping with Whitman’s authorial intent, this was the final version, the last revisions of his living breathing on going work.  Also it is the biggest revision to come out of the Civil War, which Whitman credits with giving him LoG.  However, something strikes hollow with just looking at the Deathbed edition.

I think this hollowness stems from the fact that I am a bit biased towards the Deathbed edition for two reasons.  First, it is the last version we are reading as a class, and because of this, it is the version I read with the best understanding of Whitman’s work.  The 1855 (which in a vacuum is probably my favorite) hit me over the head like a brick the first time I read it, having not read much Uncle Walt before hand it was a daunting text.  Now, having wrestled through so much more of Whitman’s writing, there is a sense of accomplishment at having made it this far.  The second one walks hand in hand with the first, though, as we have seen Whitman expand and grow as a writer and the bias towards chronology says that his last version should be his magnum opus.

The problem with this though, is, as those of you who have been following my blog know, I am obsessed with the different faces of Whitman.  The prophet, the witness, the disciple, the storyteller.  With this eye then to the body of Whitman’s work, the voice of the story teller in the deathbed edition only functions so well because it is based off the other phases of Whitman’s voice.  Whitman posits that he could not have had Leaves of Grass without the Civil War, which I can follow, but the deathbed edition could not have existed without the voice of the prophet in 1855, or the voice of the disciple of himself in 1867, or even without the voice of the mourner in the Lincoln poems.  So, while I guess my vote on the definitive edition goes to the Deathbed edition, my real sense is that you can’t come close to touching the Kosmos without reading much much more of his work.  That being said, I think the definitive edition should be the Bible edition, but that is most because I want the Whitman Bible.

November 2, 2009

Ben for November 3rd

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 5:01 pm

Ok so since the beginning of the course, I have been searching for Uncle Walt.  It has been a bit of an arduous journey.  I’ve found Walt Whitman, the cocky eyed rambling prophet with the rakish tilt to his hat and the slightly expanded crotch of the 1855 edition.  I’ve found the gospel according to Walt, the 1867 workshop edition, which is set up by chapter and verse.  I’ve found the grieving Walt and the nurse Walt, the Good Grey Poet Walt and soldier-eyed Walt, the gay Walt and the ‘we swear that he is homosocial’ Walt.  What has been missing though is the Walt Whitman referenced in the scene in ‘Dead Poets Society’ where Robin Williams makes the shy kid get up to write poetry.  We have been missing our snaggletoothed mad man.

Thank you death-bed edition for finally finding Uncle Walt for me.  While not my favorite version, of ‘Leaves’, that honor goes to the rambling chaos of the 1855 edition, I can see why this is the authoritative text that most scholars go to.  This has the feeling of a more polished laid back Whitman.  Where as the 1855 version takes the reader by the collar and drags him or her through the poem, kicking and screaming if necessary, and the 1867 version preaches from Whitmanic heights.  The death-bed edition is one where the speaker Whitman is sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch somewhere telling a listener everything he has seen, and we know he’s seen it because the wrinkles in his face tell us so, and this is cosigned by the slight limp in the left side of his face from the stroke.  He does not need to be prophet or witness or mourner, here I think we see some of a columniation of Whitman’s voice in Whitman the storyteller.

Now this is not to deny Whitman some of the boyish excitement that he had in the 1855 version, there is still plenty of that now; the cocky sparkle never quite left the eye.  There is still the crazy listing and the deluge of exclamation marks.  Also he has not abandoned all the control he grasped for in the workshop edition.  There is still structure, but it is not near the extreme level seen there.  The biggest change though is how I feel about the ego in the older Whitman.  Whitman the young prophet wears his confidence a bit like locusts and honey; he is there, he is in your face, smirking, and there is a certain roguish charm in his arrogance.  There is not the overbearing necessity to the voice that the workshop edition saw.  Uncle Walt the Storyteller carries his arrogance at a nice middle, and although I tend to avoid reading to much of the author into his work, as I feel that if you don’t look at the work and the author separately in addition to as a unit, something can get missed (blame Professor Harding for that one), I am willing to give Walt his confidence based on age for this.  He has lived his long life, and now nearing the end, this good grey old man sitting on a rocking chair is telling his story.

October 27, 2009

Ben for 10-27

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 9:49 am

Throughout the course of the semester, anyone who has been following my blog at all may have noticed a trend, namely that I spend far to much of my time dealing with which Whitman is speaking, or what aspect of the Kosmos is the reader partial to at this point.  We have seen Whitman the prophet, Whitman the disciple, Whitman the witness, but the Lincoln poems give us an aspect of Whitman that we have not seen before.  This is Whitman the broken, the mourning, the sorrowful, this is Whitman stripped so bare by grief that the words and lines are pouring out of him straight.  The ego that I railed on so much during the 1867 version of Leaves is no where to be found in this reading.

We, as readers, know that Whitman spends much of his time during the Civil War in a close proximity to death, both in his life and his work.  We also know that he even kept in touch with some of the soldiers he treated, and as much as he would have liked us to believe otherwise, never actually met Lincoln, although they might have traded soulful glances from across the square.  Stylistically though, when put in contrast to the rest of his work, the reader sees exactly how demoralized Whitman is by Lincoln’s death.  In all the strife he’s seen, it is the one fatality that he cannot wrap his mind around.  Although we do see him try in this rapid fire section of four poems that are all trying to grapple with the same one subject.

Perhaps the most interesting of the lot is “Oh Captain, My Captain” which is considered Whitman’s most famous poem, and is also a horrible representation of his work as a whole.  I spent a long time after rereading this poem, in light of my new found understanding of Whitman, and the question that kept surfacing to grapple with was, why the form?  Whitman never uses traditional form, it seems to go against the freedom that pretty much every version of Leaves advocates so much.  I think in this case, it goes along the lines that Whitman is very much a control freak.  He rewrote everything, even his personal letters, until he was happy with them.  Leaves of Grass is a huge amorphous monster of a poem that was ever changing and ever evolving.  The workshop edition, released just after the war, and heavily revised around that period, dealt with an America so shattered that Whitman felt the need to put in verse numbers to give the poem structure.

The placement of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” right before “Oh Captain, My Captain” sheds light on both the poems function.  ‘Lilacs’ is more traditional Whitman, it has the lists, it has the call outs to ideals, it has some of the sprawling length, although it shows a humility that most of his poetry lacks.  “Oh Captain, My Captain” feels like the second attempt to capture what he couldn’t in ‘Lilacs’ in that the movement to form becomes an ultimate control to work within so that his sprawling emotions cannot run away from him, and so that he can attempt to put his feelings on the page.

October 20, 2009

Ben’s (Im)Material Culture Museum Entry: Ghosts of Virginia

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 4:38 pm

chatham  The tourist attraction sign for Chatham, where the ghost of a heartbroken woman is said to walk the grounds for one night every seven years.

048-0010_Lamb'sCreekChurch_VLR_4th_edition  Lamb’s Creek Church, where two Confederate soldiers apparently had a third companion but the flash of lightening

They say that there is a church about thirteen miles outside of Fredericksburg, where during the Civil War, two Confederate soldiers sought refuge against a terrible thunderstorm.  As the two men were holed up in church, there was a flash of lightening, such as there are during serious Virginia lightening storms.  The two soldiers saw a woman dressed in white, praying at one of the pews, then nothing, then another flash of lightening, in which the woman was there again, then nothing.  The third flash was enough to make both of these fine southern gentlemen and soldiers desire to take refuge elsewhere, or chance the storm. (Taylor)

They say that at Chatham, there is a woman in white who stalks the grounds once every seven years, June the 21st.  Her father brought her across the Atlantic to stop a romance that was playing out between her and another English man, but unbeknownst to the father, the suitor snuck his way to America.  The charade was found out at Chatham at one of William Fitzhugh’s parties, and the daughter was shipped back to England, where she lived until she died on June the 21st, 1790. (Taylor)

They say that if one travels to Winchester, about ninety miles to the northwest of Fredericksburg, there is a mansion of considerable psychic phenomena where one can spend the night.  There is a room in Waverly place where a man in grey is said to barge in and fit the occupants with an icy stare before vacating the room.  This soldier was apparently the ghost of a Confederate officer first seen not long after the end of the war. (Asfar)

Ghost stories have pervaded the country and indeed the world since practically the dawn of time.  The question of what comes next has walked hand in hand with the living and ghost stories pop up all the time either as unexplained phenomena or as old stories told around a camp fire late at night.  During the Civil War, Virginia saw more blood than any other state, Union or Confederate.  Indeed, Winchester is said to have changed hands as many as sixty or seventy times, depending on how one defines changing hands, so it is not unreasonable to have some legends floating around about Confederate dead.  I know that for the brief stint that I lived in West Virginia, along the road that Lee used to retreat from Gettysburg, there was a yarn weaved about a dying confederate that would fall on the hoods of cars that stopped in the area around the night.

When hearing about Chatham, though, and finding that they only have one haunting, I was honestly surprised, due to Whitman’s graphic descriptions of the place, especially in light of Fredericksburg’s reputation as a haunted city.  Taylor quotes a nameless historian saying “Fredericksburg and the country immediately about it was fought over, marched over, shelled, ravaged and desolated.  Under its street and in yards, hundreds of dead were buried to be, now and again, in after years, unearthed.  No other American city ever suffered as did this formerly prosperous town.” (Taylor, VI)

In a city as familiar with death as Fredericksburg was in the time that Whitman visited it, it is not surprising then, that ghost stories pop up.  Whether they stem from a real occurrence beyond the realm of mortal understanding is beyond me, but there is another working theory that explains these supernatural presences.  Namely that what is beyond the grave is a matter of which no one can ascertain any real amounts of knowledge.  They may run off of theory or off of faith, but not much is honestly known.  No if one takes a place such as Fredericksburg, a sight where three major battles occurred within the city, and numerous within the surrounding area, and one is standing in a place where death is seeped into the ground.  With so many deaths so long ago, it would seem easy for history to forget them, and that is where the ghost story comes into play.  As a narrative structure, it functions as a remembrance device, as in it is hard to forget something that still wanders the lonely halls of Chatham every seven years looking for her lost lover.


Asfar, Dan, Ghost Stories of Virginia, Auburn, WA, Lone Pine Publishing International, 2006

Taylor Jr., L B, The Ghosts of Fredericksburg – and Nearby Environs,  Progress Printing Co., Inc. 1991

October 19, 2009

Ben B for October 20th

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 10:55 am

What struck me most while reading the Calder essay this week was her physical descriptions of Whitman, especially within the contexts of much of the photos of him that we have seen from after the war.  The Whitman Calder describes is a young virile tree of a man, brash and cocky, the type of Whitman that would inflate his own crotch on the frontispiece and look at you with a confident glare in his eye the whole time.  Yet this is certainly not the more reflective looking wrinkled sad face that is so common in the after war pictures of the good gray poet.  We have already talked at length about the physical toll that war took on Whitman’s body, but I guess reading the firsthand accounts really made that hit home for me.

Where this becomes interesting though, is when his physical decline is tracked alongside trends in his work.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about exactly how much the inherent arrogance of the workshop edition of Leaves of Grass bothered me.  I was able to take Whitman’s cockiness up to a point, but the chapter verse style was a bit too heavy handed for me.  Now, this was the Whitman that Calder describes in her essay, the loud boisterous man that would have arguments so heated that police would come and check to make sure the conversation was not getting violently out of hand.  This is the Whitman as Apostle and Prophet, where his word is divine inspiration, and there is a poet coming that will save America, and it might just be Whitman.

In Drumtaps though, so much of this arrogance has been toned down significantly.  In much of the work one of the most prominent tonal shifts is an incredibly subtle one, namely that Whitman switches from wanting everyone to see the world through his all-seeing eyes and to know what he has been shown to wanting to see through other people’s or things eyes to see what he has seen.  In essence, he has scrapped all his previous trappings of God-like poet for just the omnipresence.  This is the fulfillment of the Whitman I was contrasting against in my first post.  It is in war that Walt Whitman finds his voice as a witness as opposed to a prophet.

My theory on this, upon comparing Drumtaps to the workshop addition of Leaves is that there is still an inherent naiveté to Leaves that allows Whitman to be the Prophet.  He has yet to see anything to tone down the sound of how awesome he is in his own head.  The Civil War though, was too big for him to be the loud speaking voice of the nation anymore.  He saw to many horrifying things for that voice to work anymore, and thus he had to find a new one.

October 5, 2009

Ben B. for October 6th

Filed under: Uncategorized — wordbreaker @ 9:15 am

The reading for this week marks the second time this weekend that I have read “As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Woods”, the first time at Chatham house, beard bedecked and standing on the mansion steps.  There is video of this somewhere, I believe on the flipcam that Sam P was using, and I am sure it will end up on the blog as soon as we all finish slogging through the far to much video we took.  Now, previously I was guilty of accusing Whitman of grubbing for authorial authority, trying to paint himself firmly enough into each of his poems that the reader can look and say ‘look there is Whitman, he is in the picture, we aren’t, we should listen to what he says.’  Visiting Chatham, however, has completely thrown off my devotion to this cynical reading of Whitman, at least in relation to Drum Taps.  “As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia Woods” indeed has a far more contemplative tone then much of Whitman’s work that we’ve seen so far.

“As Toilsome” is not a poem of lists, not a poem of the whole country and not this rolling tirade of actions that Whitman sees or imagines himself seeing or honors.  Instead, this poem is anchored to one specific place, Virginia, and one specific event, the finding of the gravestone.  Also of note here is the far more reactionary Whitman we see talking.  In fact, he is not even talking to ‘us’ or ‘we’, he is just relaying the poem, an act which gives the words far more gravity then they would have had without that inherent separation.  What we see here is Whitman running into an image so overwhelming that for once, he can do nothing but stop and look at it, and repeat it’s inscription to the reader twice, “Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.”

Now, good blog readers, you must be saying to yourself, “But you are Ben, you take poets to task and are more likely to let the virtues stand on their own whilst you attack the weak points or question the underlying themes.”  Normally, you would have judged my character well, but having sat at Chatham and having read this poem within a few yards of the tree Whitman saw covered in body parts, I find my ability to question Whitman’s authority mongering minimal at best.  This poem lands purely in the realm of ‘Whitman as witness’.  He is merely a bystander to the horrid situations that are going on around him.  Standing at Chatham, this all gets put into amazingly clear focus.  The tour guide at Chatham said that sometimes people of a more sensitive nature tell them that the house still feels of death, and I do not find this all that far of a stretch to believe.  See, ghosts are fickle things and don’t always show up wearing white sheets and rattling chains, sometimes the haunt in the knowledge that one is standing in the same place that multitudes of soldiers died bloody, sometimes the haunt show up in a recurring line of a poem.

Powered by WordPress Packaged by Edublogs - education blogs.

Skip to toolbar