Walt Whitman – Song of the Rolling Earth

September 22, 2012

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall
be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who
remains jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate
those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the
theory of the earth,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account,
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which
responds love,
It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings
of the earth,
Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths
of the earth,
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print can-
not touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best,
It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

~Walt Whitman

News that stays news.

Thanks to the commenters this week who reminded me of my love for this classic. If you don’t know Whitman, there is a piece of your soul out there that you did not know was missing.

Welcome to the Equinox. What’s it like where you are?


14 Responses to “Walt Whitman – Song of the Rolling Earth”

  1. skeptictmac57 Says:

    High here in Dallas projected to be 96 F .That is 10 degrees above average for this day in Sept.

  2. omnologos Says:

    Thanks. Whitman speaks to me better than a Dante or a Shakespeare, because Whitman IS each and every one of us.

    PS how shall we interpret the second verse 🙂

    • It’s interesting that you chose the second verse, since it lends itself so easily to a “Gaia” interpretation, and given the way that you often occur when you contribute to this blog.

      It seems to me that this verse represents an advance in thinking over the idea that “man is the measure of all things”, since it asserts the primacy of man in context over man as an isolated body. “Human Being” is only a viable distinction in relationship to the earth; “human being” requires the earth’s gravity to nourish it (not just considering anatomy here), as well as things like the composition of the atmosphere and the availability of water.

      We have since his time greatly magnified a corner of the world that is utterly abstracted, unmoored from the fundamental facts of our existence. The crisis that may have been its inevitable consequence (the catastrophic outcomes of our climate-altering experiment being only the most serious aspect of that crisis) is something we may seize on as an opportunity for everyone to wind up better off.

      Let’s put an end to the snide remarks about omnologos and others. Let’s make working together our method, finding common ground our watchword and constant occupation. Let us educate, even while we call out the disinformers.

      • omnologos Says:

        Stephen – please let me know where and when did I ever say “man is the measure of all things”.

        Walt wrote: The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who
        remains jagged and broken.

        I say, I show a lot of respect for the Earth by considering it too mighty to be jagged and broken by humans in the space of a few decades.

        And the second paragraph of the Song is totally incompatible with alarmism.

        • Omnologos –

          I did not claim that you said that; your original query was regarding the interpretation of the second verse, and I was trying to contribute to that: I was saying that the innovation of contextual thinking that Whitman’s poem is an example of, I think, grew indeed in the twentieth century to generate whole new disciplines and fields, such as cybernetics, ecology, “systems thinking”, and other things. I was saying that it is an advance over the Renaissance/Enlightenment idea of man being the measure of all things.

          I suspect that you expect opposition on this blog to everything you say (no wonder, you get a lot of reflexive down-thumbs even when your comment is innocuous) and read it into my words. It was a miscommunication, evidently; I tend to express myself in complex terms and don’t make it particularly easy to understand me. I’m working on that…

          Your “incompatible with alarmism” interpretation is well taken for my part, since alarmism is an irrationality against the higher rationality that Whitman argues for. But a rational man sounds the alarm when it is time – and it is now time.

  3. prokaryotes Says:

    I am working on this climate themed song

    The Rate of Climate Change

  4. Wes Says:

    We’ve had a relatively normal summer here in Arizona, so “that proves that warming is a hoax.” We’ll see what the winter brings.
    More importantly, we’ll see what the elections bring. Our very Red state was taken by the teabaggers, but there’s been a revolt against some of the extremism and nonsense that they spout, so there’s hope for some improvement. By AZ standards anyway.

    What do I want? I want the scientists to stand up and shout. We have to get someone’s attention. You would think that the very real threat of a mass extinction event would empower the scientists and make the news, but so far you’d be wrong.

    The only thing close to our current situation was WWII, which also involved the entire world. If the scientists had not sent Einstein to warn Roosevelt, the Germans might have had the bomb first.

    We have a President who’s a fan of Roosevelt, but do we have an Einstein who can reach him? WWII proved that the American people would accept a significant lifestyle change in the face of a clear and present danger. Certainly we have that danger – and then some! Who can make the case?

    • andrewfez Says:

      Who’s the person that said necessity was the mother of invention, but a sense of urgency was the father?

      WWII was ‘easy’ to overcome, as the common man, woman and child could see the threat clearly before them, where as now you have to be proficient in probability and statistics, calculus, physics, etc. to clearly see the threat. I like to think of myself as being scientifically literate, but when I read through a peer reviewed climate article, I end up having to spend hours learning about specific little details that each paragraph is chocked full of to corroborate what the authors are saying in a manner that i’m actually thinking for myself, and not relying on the authors to do the thinking for me. Most of the time, the amount of time it would take to adjudicate this process ends my curiosity, and i end up just looking at the conclusions or looking at the graphs and pieces I easily understand. In short, because I’m not a climate expert, I’m reliant on climate experts to tell me what’s going on with the planet. But because I’m clever at the subjects mentioned above, I have a strong confidence that the results of their studies are solid.

      And there in lies the problem. Most people are not scientifically literate. They don’t realize that the scientific method attempts to dissolve subjective bias. They can’t, with their own eyes, see the threat clearly before them. I fear a significant subset of them see science as being equally saturated with opinion, as that of religious belief or political ideology, and those with agenda are pleased to push that fallacy. Their own motivations distort reality as well: Science gives them a huge, stinking SUV that their greatest grandmother, working at the cotton mill, could never have dreamed of, and they say, “Science is good”. Science then wants to take away that SUV and suddenly ‘Science is bad. Science is corrupt’.

      WWII is interesting in that FDR suspended the free market as a means to its preservation: ‘We’re banning the sale of new cars’, he said to the auto manufactures; ‘Y’all are war machines now…’. The free market did not solve the crisis – its temporary suspension did, though to be fair, its accomplished might lent the hammer stroke that ended Germany (lender of last resort) and Japan (Prius). Such again has to occur to get us through this current crisis. The common man’s lack of abstract and logical intelligence is the enemy this time. The band of brothers is but a wisp of a thin line that such an enemy eggs out of improper motivation.

      On my side of the earth (San Fernando Valley, CA), it was hot. I rode to the store on my bike, dodging cars obsessively pushing past the speed limit, in an attempt to get to their destinations a few seconds faster, at the expense of energy conservation.

  5. indy222 Says:

    Thank you, Peter – it can become so de-spiriting and depressing to see what is, and will, happen to this planet. Ultimately, it is appealing to our deepest feelings that will perhaps motivate people to undertake the deepest change that is needed. In that way, Whitman is perhaps worth more than all of us scientists.

  6. Nick Carter Says:

    Happy Fall! 80 degrees in Denver Town today…and lots of smoke from western wildfires that refuse to die.

  7. rayduray Says:

    Re: “Welcome to the Equinox. What’s it like where you are?”

    Like Denver, the eastern slopes of the Cascades are smoky. All the way from Central Oregon (where I’m located) up to Wenatchee, WA, where local health officials are handing out free paper face masks to any and all takers.

    It’s predicted we’ll be in and out of the smoke for another couple of weeks. Dry lightening this weekend could keep the firefighters on their toes.


  8. Here in Houston, Texas we were exempted from the general drought (unlike last year, when we had mandatory water rationing). On drought maps of the USA we were a little white sliver against the predominant reds and yellows. In fact it was a rather wet summer, like the way it used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s when I first came here, though a little hotter than back then of course.

  9. […] Walt Whitman – Song of the Rolling Earth (climatecrocks.com) Rate this:Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

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