“Nature without check…”
“...with original energy”
We devote these pages of Somos en escrito primarily to U.S. indigenous-hispanic writers, but it’s not an absolute rule, as most literary rules can be bent if not totally broken.
In this case, we make an exception to celebrate the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, one of the most renowned American poets of the 19th century. One specific reason I have is that in a letter he wrote dated July 20, 1883, Camden, N.J., speaking of a still nascent America, he stated: “Character, literature, a society worthy the name, are yet to be established. To thatcomposite America of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts. No stock shows a grander historic retrospect, grander in religiousness and loyalty, or for patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity, and humor.”
He speaks of being 37 years of age when he wrote the poem we’re sharing; that would have been about 1856. Of course, the U.S. had not long before, in 1848 to be exact, grabbed half the territory of then Mexico through military force. Nevertheless, he foresaw that the force of contact, of cultural abrasion, and inter-dependency with its neighbors to the South would serve the Anglo American society best by civilizing it, even though it had tried wiping out the indigenous peoples and Hispanic colonizers, who had preceded the Anglo incursions.
Very likely, as I figure, although Whitman did not define what he meant by “Spanish,” we can assume that he meant Mexicans.
“Song of Myself,” one of Whitman’s iconic poems, written in 1856, and taken from the 1891–92 version of Leaves of Grass, celebrates human nature as one with the force of all of nature itself.
Song of Myself
By Walt Whitman
I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
--Armando Rendón, Editor
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