Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 25.1 (Walt Whitman)

Poetry and Prose
Whitman, Walt
Poetry and Prose

Purchased at the Niagara Falls outlet mall discount bookstore.

When I bought this, I was very happy to get rid of my beat up old Modern Library paperback edition of Whitman's poetry. That book, though compact, was overly thick, and it was not in very good shape when I bought it. I have strong memories of struggling with its bulk while trying handle Whitman's often equally unwieldy poems.

I love how these Library of America books feel in my hands. I also love the book mark set into each one, and I have even grown to enjoy turning the transparently thin sheets of paper on which the work is printed.

I didn't always like the paper in these books, but after reading through a collection of crime novels in the LOA edition, I came to really appreciate the thoughtfulness that has gone into designing these books.

I am not sure why I kept my paperback copy of Specimen Days after buying this one. I don't see anything missing in this edition. Maybe I just kept it because I like the cover. Who knows?

It appears that my cats also like the little ribbons, as this one is pretty frayed. Better that than my computer cords, I guess.

from The Sleepers

I wander all night in my vision,

Stepping with light feet, swiftly and noiselessly stepping and


Bending with open eyes over the shut eyes of sleepers,

Wandering  and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted,


Pausing, gazing, bending, and stopping.

How solemn they look there, stretch'd and still,

How quiet they breathe, the little children in their cradles.

The wretched features of ennuy‚s, the white features of

        corpses, the livid faces of drunkards, the sick-gray faces

        of onanists,

The gash'd bodies on battle-fields, the insane in their strong-door'd

        rooms, the sacred idiots, the new-born emerging

        from gates, and the dying emerging from gates,

The night pervades them and infolds them.

The married couple sleep calmly in their bed, he with his

        palm on the hip of the wife, and she with her palm on

        the hip of the husband,

The sisters sleep lovingly side by side in their bed,

The men sleep lovingly side by side in theirs,

And the mother sleeps with her little child carefully wrapt.

The blind sleep, and the deaf and dumb sleep,

The prisoner sleeps well in the prison, the runaway son sleeps,

The murderer that is to be hung next day, how does he sleep?

And the murder'd person, how does he sleep?...

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