“HANDBAGS AT DAWN”

Lewis Hyde, The Gift (as good as is reputed):

Whitman [q.v.] hit upon the idea of exercising his limbs by bending young trees (“my natural gymnasia,” he called them)…. “After I wrestle with the tree awhile, I can feel its young sap and virtue welling up out of the ground and tingling through me from crown to toe, like health’s wine.” […]

Whitman’s nursing during the war had opened him to love. It changed his life. We find no relationships before the war like those he later established with Doyle or with Stafford: Intense, articulated, and long-lasting. And yet, so opened he was also wounded. Something needing cure appeared in his blood. “To touch my person to some one else’s is about as much as I can stand.” It is the sadness of this life that Whitman could not cure himself with a human love. A baffled animal, he turned back to his trees in the end. But as he confides to us before he tells his tale of Timber Creek, “after you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains….”

Beyond the sadness of this life lies its genius, that Whitman was able to find the give-and-take to heal him, to find a green-force to overcome the blood’s decay. He never married his unlettered boy, but he accepted virtue from an even more unlettered nature and gave it speech.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2018.11.10 18:41. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2018/11/10/baffledanimal/

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