Virginia for October 27th

missvirginia on Oct 25th 2009

We do a lot of joking and poking fun at Walt’s sexuality and his lovers, yet we also realize that it has so little to do with him, HIM, who he is to us. His infatuation with Lincoln has also been the butt of many jokes in our class. It is humorous, and especially hilarious when imagining him having intense “eye sex” with A. Linc. Whatta stud. In “Memories of President Lincoln”, I moved beyond the tittering and giggling of imagining Walt and Abe in a love triangle with Mary Todd (what, with all her crazy seances and such). I realized that Walt’s love and cherishment of Lincoln was much like my admiration of my grandmother. She died when I was six, and was not someone I knew. I, of course, met her, but I have no recollections of memories, traditions, anything with her. Yet, despite people having diverse views of whether she was a nice person or not, deserving my admiration, I love her.

This sort of blind love for acts read about, pictures seen of, and rumours divulged, it creates a very intimate relationship, albeit one-sided. Whitman did not personally know Lincoln at all (at least that is what our records show), but this blind, one-sided admiration perhaps persuaded his readers to look at Lincoln with more understanding, kinder eyes. Especially with the religious language in “Lilacs” and “O’ Captain”, the trinities, the birth vs. death imagery, all create venues for the reader to connect with Lincoln, via Whitman. “O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring; Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, And thought of him I love.” This one stanza contains both aforementioned points that Whitman used, and then some. Here, Whitman compares Lincoln to a “drooping star in the west”; incidentally, stars have a long, fruitful life, but when they go out, they pretty much collapse upon themselves, they die but leave a white dwarf behind. This white dwarf remains and (theoretically) continue to evolve into a black dwarf. I’m 99.9% positive that Whitman had no idea that his comparing Lincoln to a star, drooping in the west, would be so intense. Lincoln’s life, death, and legacy, leave him as an evolving, ever present, white dwarf.

Though we have read quite a bit of Walt’s poetry, his love in “Calamus” and the love he writes in letters about being a nurse are not comparable to his love in drum taps. The “Yeaaahhh, lets get this over with and reunify the nation” tone is contagious and most like the type of love conveyed in “Memories”. It is an exalted love, a love that realizes this national character is a man with faults, but because of being so real, becomes even more unique and desirable. Lincoln provides a unity that Whitman lacked his whole life. His father was rather absent, his family was poor, he had several siblings that were less than successful (including one that had some sort of mental impairment). With his family life as less than desirable, I think Lincoln represented a unified nation to which Whitman could father with his poetry, nursing, and love.

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4 Responses to “Virginia for October 27th”

  1. Avatar of jpike1 jpike1 says:

    The information about dying stars makes the “drooping star in the west” line a much more intense image for me. Although I too believe that Whitman by no means thought about the white dwarf evolving into a black dwarf, I do think that Whitman found Lincoln’s legacy as an evolving and ever present goal for America. Also, I feel that Whitman knew that Lincoln’s death would never be forgotten and ever present, similar to the star in the west. Really interesting information, thanks!

  2. Virginia,

    I really liked the way you touch on Whitman’s comparison to the “drooping star” here; I know a lot of us have spoken on it, particularly in reference to its Christ-like symbolism, but the way you do so here puts an entirely different spin on it. In this way, Lincoln never really dies; his idealistic legacy continues to evolve and grow long after Whitman or any of us go. And in this evolution, he grows and becomes just as useful, perhaps because he was mostly an ideal in the first place.

  3. Avatar of cirvine1965 cirvine1965 says:

    I think that your metaphor for Whitman’s love for Lincoln being like your feelings for your grandmother works really well. It’s sort of like how photos, stories, and home-movies of yourself as a little kid weave themselves in to your memory, even though you don’t actually remember it. The thing that I find strange though is that, while you could not possibly have spent more time with your grandmother, Whitman and Lincoln lived in the same city and moved in overlapping circles but never actually met. I can’t help but wonder why Whitman never reached out to Lincoln personally, especially since we learned about how open Lincoln’s White House was to people who wished to speak with the president.

  4. Avatar of pieruccm pieruccm says:

    Just to get it clear – are you suggesting that there was some kind of threesome going on between Whitty, Abe, and Mary?! That is some kind of creepy image that comes to mind…if that’s the case, she must not have been bothered by a lot of facial hair – they both had a lot of it with their crazy beards!!

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