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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Whitman

Progressing from transcendentalism and the trend to have man supplant God in literature, we find that romanticism and modernism seek to fill the subsequently dark abyss of America’s intellectual soul with a shocking infusion of raw, lustful, sensual experience and far removed allegorical descriptions of natural life. Whereas authors in earlier periods sought to explore the mystery of life and man’s relationship to God, romantic and modern authors seemed to have an urgent curiosity about their own place or worth as individuals in the natural order of the universe. I am reminded of Proverbs 14:12 which says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Unchained from religion and social mores, free to roam the landscape of issues from emotional health, human sexuality, base instinct, and vitality, Whitman and his beneficiaries wrought a treasure chest of aesthetic observation and suggestiveness. I , personally and with no documented support, see Whitman’s direction heading towards the sublime and maturing in the works of Herman Hesse (1877- 1962), D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Henry Miller (1891-1980), and Ana├»s Nin (1903- 1977), progressing with more and more evil concupiscence until romantic and modern artistic expression gave way to the sublime depths of base carnality, violence, and intellectual erotica. Would realism swing the pendulum back in the other direction, and, if so, how far? The Transcendentalists had let the genie of man’s self-sufficiency out of the box and now the prodigal son was dining with the type of swine representative of the least discriminating beings in Orwell's barn of human experience in the allegorical Animal Farm. Coincidentally, swine most often symbolize devils in the Bible and swine was considered to be an unclean animal by the Israelites under Mosaic law.

This critic is led to consider that, if such developments in literature are indicative of a decline in morals and integrity in American society in its relatively brief history, symbiotically, such developments in literature must have significantly contributed to that historically documented decline. It has been said that Whitman was suspicious of classrooms, and his great poem "Song of Myself" is generated by a child's question; "What is the grass?" ( He would have done well to open a Bible, turn to John Chapter One, and meditate on the fact that “All things were made by Him (Jesus); and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3 KJV)

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