Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Wisdom of Walt Whitman

Last Saturday I began writing this post about the wisdom I have found in the words of Walt Whitman. The more I wrote and deleted I realized that it is best simply to share a bit of Mr. Whitman's wisdom. Being just a little wise myself, that is what I have done.

I Sit and Look Out
Walt Whitman

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.” ~ Walt Whitman


P.S. ~ My occupational therapist came by today and taught me how to take a shower. I didn't think that I needed the lesson, but I did.
Tomorrow the nurse practioner and the physical therapist are coming to my house. Since my hospitalization, I've had more visitors to this house that the entire 8 years I've lived here.


  1. You may know, Nick, that Walt Whitman was raised a Quaker. You can really see some core Quaker beliefs in these writings.

    The one that just jumps off the page is this -- "take off your hat to nothing known or unknown".

    It used to be that men were required by society to tip their hats to people of a higher station as a sign of respect.

    Quakers, believing that each person has the divine light inside and is equally deserving of respect, refused to tip their hats to anyone. It became one of the daily outward symbols of their protest against social inequity.

  2. I always mix him up with Walt Disney...

  3. ps did you know we never got to read ANY American poetry at school ~ well barely any ~ because it was anthologized in a different volume. Talk about nations divided by a common tongue!

  4. What's really sad is that we haven't improved with time, have we?

    Whitman's final line is so telling.


  5. Thanks for sharing these, Nick. I know little of Whitman's writings.

  6. Like Gledwood, we never had any American poets at school and Walt Whitman is one of the best. I guess because our country is of the "Colonies" it was English literature only. My education is sadly unfinished...

  7. You don't see much Song of Myself these days.

  8. Great post Nick, very wise words.

    I'm pleased to hear you are getting the help you need and lots of visitors! :)

  9. Good words from Walt. I hope your showers are safer and more comfortable now.