Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jennica for November Nineteen

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 4:14 pm on Thursday, November 19, 2009

A couple days ago, I have received a call from my father saying that my grandfather is in the hospital undergoing a surgery. Apparently a blood vein or something of that matter has popped and is clotted in a small area of his brain. Old age and death is quite a transparent matter, I think. Yet on the other hand, it’s quite opaque. Old age and death seems so simple, yet if you think about it, it’s quite complicated.

This was how Walt Whitman must’ve felt.
My grandfather, once a Korean general, a great fighter in life and at heart, is now wilting away. Or rather, will soon wilt away into the ground. Walt Whitman, too, “casting backward glances over [his] travel’d road” “[a]fter years of those aims and pursuits” is now at his deathbed when he writes the Deathbed edition of “Leaves of Grass:” Second Annex: Good-Bye my Fancy and his “Backward Glance o’er Travel’d Roads. (Whitman 657).
I personally do not know death. I do not know old age. I do not know what it feels like to have traveled over many different types of roads to be contemplating what it feels like to be near death. However, I believe Walt Whitman and my grandfather do know…

After reading the First and Second Annex of the Deathbed editions of “Leaves of Grass,” I felt many emotions within Whitman’s writings. I could feel him at times, optimistic–trying to take death and old age as it is with positive spirit. However, other times, I can feel him like a normal everyday man, not a great poet: afraid, nervous, not-knowing-what-to-do, not-knowing-what-to-express. Though most of his poems do reflect a type of optimism in face of death, he too, is human. However, one of the many aspects I admire of Walt Whitman is his willingness to live to the end. Just because his body is now a bit sluggish, tired, and in pain or even if the fear of death may at times disturb his heart, he still, to the end, does not put his pen down. If you read in NY Times in 1888, you can see how Whitman is still focused on America. He wants to finish what he has to complete before he dies:

I find his spirit and attitudes toward life and death quite admirable. Again, I am reminded of how he deserves to be called the Great Poet of America…
Now on a personal note, if only my grandfather could have a tiny bit of Whitman’s spirit…



Comment by lizmoser

December 3, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather’s condition. I hope that the surgery went without any problems.


Comment by jenny and walt

December 8, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

Hi Liz,
Thanks so much for your concern. Yes, thankfully his surgery did go well. But I’m not sure how much longer he has now… I just wish he could be more optimistic and not want to give up altogether. Maybe Whitman was the particular one—trying to be optimistic with even death. But again, thank you. By the way, great presentation last class.

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