from Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.
The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.
(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women—I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
These lines were read in church a few weeks ago (reading poetry before sermons is how Unitarians roll. Usually it’s something more along the lines of Audre Lorde, something as traditional as Whitman is almost out of place) and they struck me in the way that good poetry does. But it also struck me in the way that poetry or literature does when it speaks to the very core of your own state of emotions.
Enough so that I wrote down the few lines I remembered and looked it up when I got home, only to realize that it’s this 231 line behemoth of a poem with whole sections that are alternately as amazing as that first one and rambly reminders of a time when writers were paid by the word. But I digress. I share these lines with you now because my own words cannot form quite the state of my present self to the same degree that a man who died over a century ago managed to do.