Awakening in the American "Adamic" Poets

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Part of "The Awakening Self: The New Testament and the Poets" retreat.

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Different date on cassette case vs. cassette itself. Case date -1999.MM.DD. Using ealier date.


You can much more easily see Whitman with that jug, though, than you can with Dickinson. She might have had a minute glass or something, something strong. In both of those, there's a mediator that has a function that has to be gotten rid of. There's the cork in this one that keeps the stuff well, but then it's time to use the cork's got to go, so the cork gets discarded, just like the oil here. And the oil actually allows the axon and wheel to work together smoothly, and then when they really desire a metal-on-metal contact or something, then the oil is gone, that mediator is gone, and the two realities can spark things with each other. She's continually making a contrast between the unreal and the real, or what would you call it, the provisory and the absolute. And the absolute comes home, the absolute comes to the interior self, doesn't it, comes back to self in some way. So when she identifies the real here, I think she's saying, I've experienced that, okay, and so it's identified with herself in some way, whereas the other falls away.


It's equivalent to what she says about ideals, okay. The corked liquor is equivalent to the ideal in the earlier poem. I think we can skip to that of Athens there, if it's clear enough. Well, maybe we should turn, we're getting close to the end of our time here, let's turn to Wallace Stevens. Now I had to skip some of Stevens' most appropriate poems because we used them last year. Some places you can see that ego, that Adamic ego here, right out in the open, like tea at the palace of Houn. And in other ones it's implicit, it's implicit underneath the metaphor that he uses like, Earthy anecdote and poetry is a destructive force. Now remember, he's usually writing about poetry, and when he writes about poetry he's writing about the self. He's writing about this particular self, and so he's writing really also about what humanity is, about what we are.


Anybody want to read one of those? It doesn't matter much which one. Augusto. Earthy anecdote. Every time the bucks went clattering over Oklahoma, a firecat bristled in the way. Wherever they went they went clattering, until they swerved in a swift circular line to the right because of the firecat. Or until they swerved in a swift circular line to the left because of the firecat. The bucks clattered, the firecat went heaping to the right, to the right, and bristled in the way. Later, the firecat closed his bright eyes and slept. Now that's the first poem in Wallace Stevens' collected poems, so it's got to be pretty important for him. And I wondered why for about 20 years, you know, why? What in heaven's name, and why does Oklahoma have to be in that first poem? But there we are. Think about that firecat.


Now the firecat there is first cousin to the lion in the other poem, where poetry is a destructive force, okay? So what it is somehow... Wallace Stevens says he's always writing about reality and the imagination, okay? But you can say equivalently, you can translate that, he's always writing about the human person, as it were, the definition, the realization of the human person in its world, okay? But through imagination, and the person as imagination, practically speaking. So this firecat, I believe, is the poet or the imagination confronting reality, okay? So there's an aggressive movement, an aggressive jump, a leap on the part of imagination, on the part of the mind, which forces nature, as it were, to forego its random motion clattering over Oklahoma, okay? And go in a swift circular line to the left, or a swift circular line to the right, which has some shape, which has some symmetry to it, okay? So those swift circular lines are like the poems, it seems to me.


Oh, blessed rage for order. Yes, that's right, that's what it is. See, these fierce animals are the rage for order, but the rage not for an order of number two, okay? And not precisely for this, because you can't talk about an order of number three, can you? But of something in between, okay? Something in between. The marriage, as it were, of these two principles somehow. The principle of order, and the principle of, call it randomness, or those books clattering over Oklahoma. Or call it the masculine principle and the feminine principle, on some level of analogy, okay? That final one is not precisely one of these, the focus is not the egocentric thing, but it's rather Stephen's return to this world and to incarnate reality. That is, it's the kind of anti-Platonic movement which insists that it's all right here.


It's all right here around us and in us, in our bodily being, okay? This is typical of a number of American poets. You find it already in Whitman, don't you? And you find it already in Blake, among the romantics, who refuses to divorce the body from the soul, okay? We are one thing. So there's an insistence on the unity of the human person, and that human person being a bodily human person, here and now. Whitman will say, there was never any more than there is now, for instance, you know? That it's all right here. It's all right here in our physical reality. Now, that for me is like a remote harmonic of the incarnation, because where did that ever come from, if not from Christianity, all right? Christianity, which finally pushes Plato out of the way, okay, and pushes all of the Greek hierarchies, and the abstracting and spiritualizing hierarchies out of the way, and descends back into the present reality of human life. And Stephen does it with a certain triumphant grandeur, I think.


Anybody volunteer to read that one? Maybe not everybody likes it as much as I do. I think that you should read it. All right, I'll read that one. The greatest poverty... Now, this is the 15th part of a long poem, most of which is even more obscure than this. The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world, to feel that one's desire is too difficult to tell from despair. Perhaps after death the non-physical people in paradise itself non-physical... He's got a very pinched idea of a Christian image of heaven and earth. Excuse me for interrupting. In paradise itself non-physical may by chance observe the green corn gleaming, and experience the minor of what we feel. The adventurer in humanity has not yet conceived of a race completely physical in a physical world. The green corn gleams, and the metaphysicals lie sprawling in majors of the August heat, the rotund emotions, paradise unknown.


This is the thesis scriven in delight, the reverberating psalm, the right chorale. One might have thought of sight, but who could think of what it sees for all the ill it sees? Speech found the ear for all the evil sound, but the dark italics it could not propound. And out of what one sees and hears, and out of what one feels, who could have thought to make so many selves, so many sensuous worlds, as if the air, the midday air, was swarming with the metaphysical changes that occur merely in living as and where we live? So, it's a strange movement that comes home with such resonance. It comes home to midday, summer, physical, bodily, dull, ordinary reality with that kind of resonance, with that kind of power. That's the insight that's in this particular poetry. And already, in some way, it's in Whitman.


It's achieving more finesse, and a kind of more of a withdrawal of the conspicuous ego of Whitman's. It's still coming right back into human reality. This is the thesis scriven in delight, the reverberating psalm, the right chorale. You hear the affirmation in that, the affirmation. But here, the affirmation is not so centered in or focused in the self explicitly, okay? It's focused in the reality. It's focused like in a given of the reality in which we live, and the reality of which we are. Yes? But also it seems like that interaction with the self is really important. You won't let it settle into either the inside or the outside. It's in physical stuff, it's in metaphysical stuff. It's on this flexibility of working between the two. In the middle of the last stanza, it's not out of what one sees and hears,


so it's not the senses, but out of what one feels, which can be either a taking in or a giving out of emotion. Who would have thought to make so many selves? So it's thinking and making as this interaction with reality that's never set, and so the world constantly can be formulated in us based on what self-sign is that's really all around us. That's right. That's beautiful. Without the imagination, it would just be ordinary opaque reality, wouldn't it? And you might say the dullness of noon on a midsummer day. It's imagination that makes it jump. It's imagination that finds these living metaphysicals somehow. I love when he uses that language. He's not much of a philosopher, actually, but a philosophical word can get a lot of power in his poetry. Okay, let's do one Denise Levertov poem. As far as I know, she's not directly in this line. I put these poems in because I thought it would be good to have another woman poet, a contemporary,


and also because they're poems of awakening. That's something that she does. So these are poems, and she writes many of those, of the awakening of the self. Now, she was living here in California. I think she only died a couple of years ago. And she's a very accessible poet. These are not puzzles in general. She deliberately... She'll have a delicate veil over her meaning, but it's not such a thick veil that you feel you don't really have a grip on. You're not really in touch with it. Anybody pick out one of these and read it for our finale? All right. Thank you.


Well, I think we can conclude with that. Any questions or comments? One of the Stevens poems? And it's a Bible, and it's in Hebrew. And then he brings forth a poem. And there are times when you're not in touch with it. And we've brushed on that before, and it just came up again. It sounds like something in one of those Dickinson poems. Yeah, it really does. I like those. Is there a poem by heart that I'd like to share from you? Yes, please do. Do you have one? No. My favorite.


One of my very favorite poems. I think it's unfunny. As swimmers dare to lie, face to display, water bears them. As hawks rest upon a bridge, the air sustains them. When do I long to recall and float into creative spirit, deep and bright, knowing no effort turns the thought surrounding bright. Amen. Thank you. No, but I like that one. I don't know what book it would be in, but I've heard of it. Then you've got a really funny book. We're good if we do more poetry,


and I'll do less talking. So, I know people will silently approve of that. No, no, no. It wasn't there. It wasn't there. All right. This morning we're going to turn to the American poets, and I'm going to, as I depended largely on Abrams, I put the mirror in the lamp yesterday, today I'm going to use Pierce's The Continuity of American Poetry, which is also a book which originated in the 50s. I think he published in 61, but it came from some lectures earlier on. And he talks basically about the central line of American poetry as being Adamic poetry, poetry, as it were, in the person of Adam, who is like the first person on the planet. It's a kind of absolute self. So, we'll get into that. Before that, I would ask Jeff just to make a few remarks as a kind of bridge between the Romantic tradition and this particular egocentric American tradition about something in that Romantic tradition.


Yes. Well, I think when we turn to Whitman, and the first thing you see is I celebrate myself and sing myself. It can be a bit of a turn-off. But Romantic egocentricity isn't just egocentricity. The Romantic poets are very conscious of this flowering of their individuality. And much of what Father Bruno has talked about, that incarnational birth that we all feel, they feel too, and they want to share it. And so they see themselves as being spokespeople for the rest of humanity. So, when Whitman says, I celebrate myself, I sing myself,


he also says, and what I shall assume you shall assume for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. So, he's really going back to the early English Romantics who also felt that they were speaking not just for themselves, but they were speaking out of universal human experience. And when even someone like Shelley speaks about the West Wind or the Skylark, he sees that empathic self extending even to nature. So, he says to the West Wind, Be thou me. And he sees himself like the Skylark soaring and singing. So, all of nature is kind of encompassed within the poet. He becomes a kind of microcosm and is able to articulate what others cannot articulate. And he's also very much


more inclusive than the poets of the classical period who thought of themselves in Milton's terms of writing for fit audience but few. But Wordsworth, for example, found his inspiration in the old Cumberland Beggar and Michael the Peasant. So, there is that sense of all of humanity and all of nature is gathered into the Romantic cosmos. The language of Romantic poetry tends to be the language of everyday. The kind of debasement of the classical conventions in the late 18th century where poets who wanted to write about fish wrote about the Finney tribe and if they wanted to say bird they said the feathered folk. Well, that got to be pretty old. And so, when you have


Whitman talking about the barbaric yawp, he wants to speak to you where you are. He wants to use the language of the real world. And the nature he wants to write about is the nature of the real world. He mentions actual places in his neighborhood as, of course, Emerson and Thoreau in that tradition do. If we go back to the classical pastoral, that's written about shepherds and maidens in a never-never land. And it's written by poets in the city. Virgil didn't live out in the country like Wordsworth. Virgil lived in Rome and wrote about a kind of mythic country. So, all of these Romantic conventions and, of course, there are many more. I was mentioning to Father Bruno an essay on the discrimination of Romanticisms because there are just so many kinds of Romanticism. But I think those few are probably most relevant to us today.


Okay. Thank you, Jeff. Jeff knows a lot about that Romantic tradition, about the English poets. The poets that I intend to run through this morning are, first of all, Emerson, who's not so much noteworthy as a poet. He's a little bit dull as a poet, actually. He didn't write a whole lot of poetry. And we have a couple of his poems here and we don't absolutely need to read them. I'm not sure I made the best choices with Emerson. There's another one, Wood Notes, which might have been a little bit better. But I didn't find anything nearly as powerful as Emerson's essays. Emerson sounds like Jupiter in his essays. He's really strong. But in his poetry, it doesn't come through in that way. It's funny because they say that Emerson described in his essays the ideal poet and that Whitman did it. But Emerson and Whitman didn't get along altogether because I think Emerson found


Emerson was more of an old-fashioned gentleman and Whitman was not at all. And so his arrogance, I think, displeased Emerson. But nevertheless, what Emerson proposes as the poet, the poet sort of as the ideal human being who, as Jeff was saying, brings all reality into himself, into herself, then transmutes it somehow and brings it back, makes something new out of it. So as a microcosm, as an active, creative microcosm who's somehow realizing something new in the world. So Emerson writes about this and I find his essays very powerful in this respect. And I'll give you a few quotes just as samples. And then in some way, Whitman does it. Whitman has a voice in poetry and Emerson has a voice in prose. Emerson has a strong voice in prose. He doesn't have a strong voice in poetry, but Whitman does. He has an inimitable voice which has been imitated many times. He's sort of the one you have to reckon with after his time apparently in American poetry.


Whitman. So you'll notice in this first poem of Emerson's, The Problem, he's sort of fencing with religion and relating, putting it in place in his world in which nature is really dominant. Nature in something that he calls the over-soul, which is close to being the Holy Spirit, which is close also to being, I suppose, imagination in the language of Blake or of Coleridge. Something which is like an American, an Adamic Atman in some way. The universal self which manifests itself in each person. And as it manifests itself in you, you are universal. I remember there's one passage in an essay where he says, well, what we're supposed to be is this kind of universal fire. And yet we turn into carpenters and sailors and this and that. But the human being is meant to be everything. It's meant to be this synthetic transcendent totality which contains everything.


And we get determined. We get specialized in some way. We get nailed down to one exterior determination instead of realizing this plenary interiority which he's talking about. But it's an interiority which is not the old contemplative interiority, but it's focused back, coming back out into the world, making something new. Why don't we read a little... Maybe I should give you a couple of... a definition or two. Pierce talks about Adamic poetry as being the mainstream in America, okay? That's the strongest, deepest poetry for him. And it would start out with Emerson and then Whitman and then Dickinson, Emily Dickinson, and then Stevens for him is the end of the line. In between Dickinson and Stevens you've got some other modern poets, as we would call them, like Marianne Moore, E.E. Cummings, and so on, who are in that same,


more or less in that same Adamic line. The other line that he says in reaction against that is the mythic line. The Adamic line is this egocentric poetry which conceives myself, as the poet, as like the only person on the planet, the only person in the world, and everything is starting from me. It's in a very, very arrogant position, in a sense. In another sense it's true, okay? It's true because the Divine Consciousness is in us and because each of us is the center of the world. That's the paradox of our being. And that we badly need, once again, in Christianity. But with that position, you've got to have the context, okay? And the trouble with a lot of the poets is that they don't have the context. They just have that position. You can go nuts if you're just in that place of being the center of the universe. A lot of our troubles are, you know, the troubles of America and the world today and the resentment about America is because of our arrogance, is because of our individualistic, kind of egocentric blindness


to the little universe, the center of the universe, in which we live, okay? So that's our trap as Americans. But in a sense there's a renaissance, there's a re-emergence of that which Christ brought, in a sense, too. That plenary human person who is not only one with God but also is creative, also is God's energy of newness in the world. Okay, here's Peirce's definition, more or less, of Adamic poetry. The Adamic poem is one which portrays the simple separating inwardness of man, of the human person, as that which it once forms and is formed by the vision of the world in which it has its being. I find his language very clear and then it sort of gets diffuse and loses it. Simple separating inwardness, okay? A simple isolated self, simple separate self, something like that, okay?


Which then originates everything as if it were the start of everything, as if it were the creating divinity. Okay. And this is what we find very powerful, sort of idealized and expressed in prose by Emerson and then carried out poetically by the others in that tradition. And he finds the last, the terminal figure in Stevens and Wallace Stevens because he says you can't go any further than that. At that point, the person has identified himself with his making, with his creation, with his creativity. And so he'll talk about truth as being a fiction at that point, the ultimate truth for him. And he's talking sort of with his tongue in his poetic cheek, I suppose. The ultimate truth is the supreme fiction for him, is that which expresses your creativity because somehow the ultimate truth for him is the truth of the human person. And that truth is realized in the creativity of the human person, okay? Okay, here's the... The poem may nominally argue for many things,


it may be about many things, it may have many seeming messages, may have many subjects, may be descriptive of the world at large, but always it will implicitly argue for one thing, the vital necessity of its own existence and of the ego which creates and informs it. Its essential argument, its basic subject, is the life of poetry itself. So you'll find Stevens time after time writing poems about poetry, as if all of his poems were about poetry, because in a sense every poem isn't. Every poem is about poetry because it has to realize that poetic event, whatever it is, okay? So in some sense it is. But in these poets, that also becomes the explicit subject. It also becomes the conscious subject for the poem very often. The vital necessity of its own existence and of the ego, the self, which creates and informs it. Its essential argument, its basic subject, is the life of poetry itself. As this life makes viable the conception of the human person, as in the end, as in the end,


whatever commitments he has had to make on the way, radically free to know, be, and make himself. Radically free to know, be, and make himself. You can hear, not the star-spangled banner, but you can hear something American in that, can't you? That independence, that complete autonomy. Don't tread on me, the whole thing. And the self-reliance of the pioneer, of the one who strikes out on his own and sort of junks everything that's gone before. There's something true in that, isn't there? I mean, there's something wonderful in that. There's something wonderful when Emerson can say, books, what are books good for? Books are inferior to the human person, okay? What can another author do for me? The danger is that reading a book, he will take over my space. That is, the author of that book, that book somehow, will come in and take over the space of my spirit, the space of myself. All that he can really do for me


is to enkindle that which is within me. Okay. And then the book... Remember, how many times have you started to read a book and the first page just was illuminating, okay? And then you go and you get the book and you sit down and you read it and zoom, it all drains out. And that's the truth of what Emerson is saying. But isn't that paradoxical because these people are writing a kind of revelation. They want to enkindle us the way scripture is supposed to enkindle us. So they're saying, I will not be contaminated by your book. That's right. But, but... That's right. But read my book and buy it too. But you could justify that insofar as they'll say, okay, the only thing I have to tell you is what you are. Whitman sounds like that very often, doesn't he? Emerson could speak that way too. I don't have anything to tell you except what you are, who you are.


What you were saying before was a little bit like that, like about Whitman, you know. What I have, what I have to give is only what I am and that's what you are too, okay? So the only thing that I can do, he might say, is to, what would you say, tell you how to find yourself, is to show you the way into yourself and then you can throw me away. Because he doesn't want to be thrown away. He keeps writing. Which one? Yes, it's supposed to do that. It's supposed to enkindle your very self. Would you like to read the first part of it? We've had, I think we've sufficiently defined the Adamic. Let me do the Mythic. The other kind of poetry, according to Pierce in America, is the Mythic poem, okay? Now what that tends to do is to react against that autonomous self, okay? I call it the absolute self. It reacts against that and says, no, that's not real. That's hubris, in the old language.


That's arrogance. And what you really have to do is go back and submit to tradition, okay? What you really have to do is to find the context. And particularly, I'd say, go back to number two here, all right? What you really have to do is find the context of human life, which ultimately, for these poets, is going to turn out to be a Christian context. So the arch figure in that direction, in that Mythic direction, for Pierce, is T.S. Eliot, okay? The terminal poet in the Adamic line for him is Wallace Stevens, who identifies his self with his making and identifies truth and reality with the fiction, okay? With what is made and with the act of making itself, which is more precious. See, the act is more important than the product, okay? Because the act has an infinite potential in it, an infinite energy and light in it, as it were, creative potency. Whereas the product is merely one child of that, okay, and can always be replaced, can always be reproduced. It always focuses back within the person. Whereas the Mythic poet,


at the end of the line for him, is T.S. Eliot, who goes back into the Christian tradition and accepts it. And it begins to, what would you call it, outline itself in his later poetry, not in the earlier poetry. And other people in that line would be like Tate and Ransom, it seems to me. There's some Southern poets who do that, too, who go back to tradition. Okay, let's do some Whitman. We can go around a little bit. Would you like to start? Well, I'm going to just start. Jeffrey, are you willing to start? The Song of Myself. It's the class of the students. It's so amazing. We can do a whole section there. And then we can maybe stop


and have a little comment, okay? Let's do a whole one of those numbered sections before we stop. Each person do our section, yeah. I loaf and invite my soul. I lean and loaf at my ease, observing a sphere of summer grass. My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this ash. Born here and parents born here, from parents the same and their parents the same. I, now 37 years old in perfect health, begin hoping not to cease until death. Trees and schools in abeyance. Retiring back a while, surprised at what they are but never forgotten. I harbor for good or bad. I commit to speak at every hazard, nature without check with original energy. Thank you. Isn't that marvelous? That voice is really something. It's really something.


And then you can go around sort of behind it and say, well, my gosh, you know, he's looking at himself there, you know. He's kind of, he's cultivating a leisurely, cool image of himself contemplating a sphere of grass, you know. So from another side, it's observed. But as long as you stay inside the voice, it's marvelous. Well, it made me giggle. I have six children and they're all grown and beyond grown, finally. And he perfectly identifies a 37-year-old. Exactly what I was thinking. In perfect health. When they hit 37, you know, they get this fullness of themselves, the joy of life, and then 40 hits. He's obviously not troubled by constipation. Somebody want to do the second one? I will. Houses and rooms are full of curfews.


The shelves are crowded with curfews. I breathe the fragrance myself. I know it and like it. The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it. The atmosphere is not a curfew. It has no taste of the distillation. It is all of it. It is from my mouth forever. I am in love with it. I will close the bag by the wood and become undisguised and naked. I am mad for it to be in contact with me. The smoke of my own breath echoes, ripples, buzzes, whispers. Love is so spread, crotch and vine. My respiration and inspiration are beating up my heart. The passing of blood and air through my lungs. The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves set up the shore in dark moody sea rocks and the hay in the barn. The sound of the belts from the ribs of my voice loops to the eddies of the wind. A few light kisses, a few embraces


are reaching around in my arms. The play of shine and shade on the trees is a couple of wild wags. Did the light alone or in the rush of the streets grow on the fields and hillsides? The feeling of salt, the full moon's thrill, the song of me rising from bed and losing the sun. Have you reckoned a thousand acres of much? Have you reckoned the earth's height? Have you practiced so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of time? Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all time. You shall possess the good of the earth and sun. There are millions of sunsets. You shall no longer think things of seven or thirteen. No, look through the eyes of the dead and see them as scepters in the forest. You shall not look through my eyes either. No, think things of me. You shall listen to all signs of filth and mischief.


Coming from that energy, from that level of exhilaration. And which has a truth in it, doesn't it? It's interesting that these absolutenesses are true and yet at another moment they're utterly untrue. They're true and when it's true it gives place to nothing. When it's true it is absolute. When it's true it's itself and doesn't have to compromise. It doesn't have to accept any boundary lines. It doesn't have to measure the territory at all, does it? It's an absolute. And yet it's true in its direction. It's true at its moment. It's true in that dimension of human life but at another moment it's utterly untrue and utterly inappropriate. So we sort of have to allow that absoluteness of the moment and of the direction. It's true especially over here. Because this is like, that's the point of the moment and of the self opening up in its divinity. And nothing can bound it. Nothing can bound it. When the poets are free that's what they do.


Not only Whitman but also the others. The soul, the spirit of lyricism. A kind of fire of praise which comes up. But with Whitman the new thing is that it's focused back on the self. It's focused back on this image of self which he keeps bringing forward and putting before you and then identifying with you. He sounds a little like the Book of Wisdom there, doesn't he? He sounds a little like that Sophia figure of the Old Testament. Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems. So sometimes it seems like the Book of Wisdom is a chunk from the purely natural into the development of human life at the very bottom of the left hand side of the page. The delight of the world, the delight of love, the rush of the streets, so it's a dark map of humanity just like this is. Yes. Yes. Yes, at one moment he'll turn towards nature


and then at another moment he'll turn towards the trades and the crafts and all the people who work on it. And mostly men, okay? The women don't figure so much on that. And he'll celebrate all of that too. That's kind of rapid. But here and there you'll have those wisdom passages coming through that sound very much like Sophia. It's almost like there's a Zen quality. It's like he's just observing and appreciating everything. Not judging the noise and the haste of the city. It's all experience. That's right, that's right. All experience is this unitary self somehow. Now there is an eastern influence, an eastern connection here, okay? At some point he talks about the idea of identity as the supreme idea. Now that idea of identity for me, identifies with the Advaita of the East, okay? With the unitive intuition of the East, of Asia, which is at the center of the Asian traditions. Now Emerson's got that in his way and they had a certain leaning towards the East.


I had some material on that and I've lost touch with it right now but there is an influence, there is a contact there. They were somewhat inspired by the East. Whitman has a long poem called Passage to India but that unitive idea doesn't come out enough there. It's not at the center of it. Another thing is behind this is, who's behind this? Who's behind Emerson and Whitman? Coleridge. And Coleridge would be reading Jakob Burma and reading Paracelsus and reading Plotinus, okay? So way behind this is Plotinus, Neoplatonism. The same thing that inspired the first centuries of Christian mystical theology, okay? That marvelous unitive intuition of Plotinus, that unitive reality. He's practically the mountaintop of that in the West, you know? Outside the Christian mystics in which, in whom it's in a Christian language. Plotinus is kind of the first peak there, the Mount Sinai of that unitive reality in the West. And it's everywhere in the East, of course. It's everywhere in Hinduism and Buddhism. Okay, let's, so as not to use up all our time on Whitman, let's skip through a little bit.


Let's go to number 17 there on the next page. Will somebody pick that up and read it for us? These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and clans. They are not original in any way. If they are not yours as much as mine, they are nothing, or next to nothing. If they are not the riddle of time and the riddle, they are nothing. If they are not just as close as they are distant, they are nothing. This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is. This, the common heritage, begins to grow. He helps us to go outdoors. He helps us to go outdoors and take a deep, deep breath. And somehow to know that it all belongs to us, you know? That there really aren't any real estate divisions. That somehow the heavens and the earth are ours. Now, that next one, 25 at the beginning, I just want to read that first part of it.


Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sunrise would kill me if I could not now and always send sunrise out of me. You see, that sort of solar cell in which that Copernican revolution we talked about, remember? Where instead of seeing yourself in a fixed system and identifying with the earth inside that cosmic system, that fixed cosmic order, you somehow switch over and identify with the sun in a subtle way. And here it becomes explicit. But in a subtle way, in a lot of modern Western culture, modern Western thought. You identify with the sun and then you are at the center. And what's more, you are radiating. You are somehow bringing something into the universe. You are radiating, communicating an energy and a newness out to the universe. That's what we find here explicitly in Whitman. Because he's got such a strong egocentricity and such a kind of brazenness about it, okay? That it comes out clearly. We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun.


We found our own, O my soul, in the calm and cool of the daybreak. And so on. There's a Stevens poem later on which kind of echoes that. The Tea at the Palazzo. 52 is the final one. It's the end of Song of Myself. Which is that great poem. I mean, probably the best thing in Leaves of Grass. Would somebody pick that one up? We can include our Whitman thing with that. The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me. He complains of my gab and my loitering. I, too, am not a bit tame. I, too, am untranslatable. I sound my barbaric yawk over the roots of the world. The last scud of days holds back for me. It flings my likeness after the rest and shrewd as any on the shadowed wilds.


It coaxes me to the vapor and the dust. I depart as air. I shake my white locks at the runaway sun. I effuse my flesh in eddies and drip in lacy jags. I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love. If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles. You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, but I shall be good help to you nevertheless and filter and fiber your blood. Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged. Missing me one place, search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you. It's like a divine spirit, isn't it? Like divine wisdom, except somehow it's under your feet, okay? And that's part of the modernness of this, that it's somehow in the earth and coming out of the earth. It's down there, coming up from below.


And it's a very incarnate, bodily, emphatically bodily poetry, isn't it? Whitman's poetry. Emerson gets in that direction, that second form of his music, you know, where there's something singing in the mud of the earth and so on. But he doesn't do it with the same, what would you call it, he doesn't put it all in your face and do it with the same emphasis and power that Whitman does. Now for fierce, Emily Dickinson is the purest of the Adamic poets, of these egocentric American poets, because she doesn't have a philosophy, okay? She doesn't have a doctrine, and she doesn't have a kind of consistent structure of thought or a consistent ideal that she's trying to propose to you, okay? But what you get is the expression of that self, the expression of that self that's at the center of things. And I've had a hard time appreciating Emily Dickinson. She's rather new to me, in a sense,


because at first I thought that her poetry looked too much like bric-a-brac, you know, little curios, little jeweled boxes that snap shut, you know? But actually, what I find that's striking and that's powerful is her energy. There's a crisp energy there, okay? Which also is, what would you call it, she's like a metaphysical poet in that she pulls all things into the small vessel of her poem, okay? Heaven and earth are in there. She's very bold. She's a little like Whitman in the way she throws things around and then brings them all together and forces them into these words which are somehow pushed and compressed together. So often it's hard to get the complete meaning of her poems, and I think probably that's intentional sometimes. Those dashes sometimes, I think, are evasions to keep you from getting a fixed syntax and being sure you've got a grip on it. So I've come to like her. These poems maybe are not the best selection because I haven't read all of her poetry.


Now these don't talk objectively about that I, about that self, the way Whitman does, okay? Not explicitly, but it's there in another way. There's a comic contrast between Whitman and Dickinson, isn't there? I mean, Whitman is like the Atlantic Ocean, okay? Rolling, billowing forth infinitely, you know? And then with Dickinson you go indoors and you've got these little poems that are very clearly outlined across the board. Yeah, somebody should write that, in Canada, should write that conversation. Any, a volunteer to read? We can do these Dickinson poems fairly quickly. I dwell in possibilities, a fairer house than prose, more numerous than windows, superior to doors, of chambers as besieged, impregnable abides,


and for an everlasting roof the gambols of the sky, of visitors the fairest for occupations this, but spreading wide my narrow hands to gather paradise. That's pretty powerful, isn't it? Now, notice how those last two lines seem to describe her poetry in a way, don't they? That is, the narrow hands of her poetry, which in some way spread together paradise, what she brings into her poems. But what she brings into her poems is not only what she talks about, but it's that essential, synthetic, creative energy, okay, of the human person that we're talking about. Next one there, okay? Nature and God. Nature and God. I neither knew, yet both so well knew me, they startled, like executors of my identity, yet neither told that I could learn. My secret, as secure as Herschel's private interest,


on Mercury's affair. Tell you the truth, I'm puzzled by the last sentence. Herschel was a famous astronomer, okay, I don't know if he discovered the nebula, but he catalogued thousands of them. So he was the master astronomer of his time, of the 19th century. But somehow she's between nature and God now, okay? Now notice the individuality of a self which is able to disengage itself both from nature and from God and to speak about its own secret, okay? That's what I find in that little poem. Anybody do the next one? Rosemary? Life is sufficient to itself. If others want to see, it can be had on windowpanes, some always do today. But not for compensation, it holds its voluntary glory to toil in the human heart precisely as to you.


That's good. That energy which closes those poems, that energy which makes it, kind of pulls the door shut, pulls the tent cord, and pulls it all together, that energy is admirable sometimes. It's like a musical, the end of a little musical piece, okay, which comes back home onto the tonic note. But notice also there's a kind of parabolic expression of the self there, this light which is sufficient to itself, okay? And it doesn't care what comes back, and it doesn't care whether you receive it or not. That's a reflection also of her identity, that's a reflection of her being, okay? It reminds me of a poem by Stevens, it's a poem on a poem, on a poem by William Carlos Williams, anybody remember that? Shine, that star, independent, shining above the sunrise in which you have no part. The indifference of that star.


There's a reality out there which is simply itself, okay? And which is indifferent to the, kind of the pulse beat of our human realities, okay? And that for him is admirable. And why is it admirable, okay? It's as if there's a recognition, a realization at once, of difference and of self, okay? The respect for difference, the respect for otherness, because one also has a sense of oneself, because one has a very strong sense of one's own identity, you might say at that moment. Also there's a kinship, but the difference itself has to be accented. Stevens will say that again and again. And that's what keeps some of these people from just leaking off all over the place, all right? Is the, we talked about the mirror and the lamp, you know? And the movement from the mirror to the lamp as you move into the romantic conception of the poet and of the mind. But we need both the mirror and the lamp, don't we? Because if you become divorced from fidelity to external reality, if you're writing poetry,


you may be writing just gush or mush after a while, okay? And there's plenty of that in the romantic tradition and in the modernist tradition. There's plenty of people just pouring themselves out until they bore you to death. And it has no form, and nothing but their own body fluids are in it. But what saves poetry from that is a fidelity to the particulars of the otherness of reality, of the reality that's out there, okay? To be able to describe something with... You know, Marianne Moore, when she talked about imagined frogs in real gardens? Real frogs. That's right. You have to have real frogs in your house. Okay, 883, anybody? Do you want somebody to read it? Yes, please. 883? Right. A poet's life of lamps,


their cells glow, which they stimulate with vital light. Inherent to the sun, each age a lamp disseminating their circumference. Thank you. That sounds a little like what we were saying about Emerson, that poets light but lamps, okay? It's a little puzzling to me exactly what's happening with those wicks. The wicks seem to go on. The wicks seem to go on after the poets go out, don't they? And why are there plural wicks rather than just one wick? And also how that if vital light fits in there. And inherent to the sun, the connection of those three lines. The wicks they stimulate, if vital light inherent to the sun. The wicks they... The external light, the poet's life of lamps,


the external light of the poems have to engender some light within that if the poem works, and the person is dependent, that internal lamp will be lit, which is sort of a mirror of sun and external light. Yeah, I think you've got something there. I think you've got a hold of it. It's like what Emerson is saying about the book and yourself, okay? The value of the book, the value of that poem that somebody's written is the value of a lamp somehow which can enkindle my own inner flame. But once that inner flame is enkindled, it is the autonomous thing which somehow is eternal and inhere as do the suns. That's powerful, isn't it? Yes? Could the wick be likened to the self in that poem? Yes, I think so. Yeah. So the wicks would be the selves, as it were, that are enkindled, I think, by those external poems.


But see, the poet's light but lamps themselves go out. That's confusing to me because those poets are the ones in which that same light is burning very brightly, okay? So how can it go out in them any more than it goes out in me when they're stimulated in me? Just the poem, maybe. The light, yeah. It doesn't really go out because they have it in a, what would you call it, in an eminent manner in order to be able to enkindle it within me. Yes? Maybe the ideas are going out, really. Yeah, yeah. It could be that. No, I think two poets are not in love and they like the lamps and themselves to go out and light a little bit and light Shakespeare's lamp. You know, this show is, and I should keep it on. This is what it's like to be me. Okay? Yep, yep. I think she plays a little freely,


a little back and forth there between what's happening. It is plural wick. There's another one wick, and so they go out, and they can't touch one. So people don't have the expression to know what this wick is. Uh-huh, yep. There's a suggestion of eternity there, isn't there, somehow. Something that transcends and goes through the ages, especially where she says, each age a lens disseminating its circumference, as if there's something about those wicks which is lasting through the ages. And then the various ages kind of radiate it or refract it out somewhere. Okay, the next little one I'll read there. Ideals are the fairy oil with which we help the wheel, but when the vital axle turns, the eye rejects the oil. I think that's akin to what we've been saying about the poem just before. Okay? The difference between an idea or an ideal and that interior reality, whatever it is, whatever it is that turns on,


it's like the wicks in the earlier poem, and here is to the sons. When that turns on, then the oil or the ideal is irrelevant, because you can make and destroy them at will, in a sense, because the plenary reality is inside the person. But that same idea of centrality, in so many of these poems, see, they're kind of, what would you call them, centripetal, aren't they? In fact, her poetry suggests something centripetal, whereas Whitman seems to be centrifugal, doesn't he? He seems to be moving outwards. He's like an extrovert, in a sense, a solar extrovert, who's looking out at everything and in everything finding himself. Whereas Dickinson seems to be centripetal in the sense that she's coming back towards that central reality. She's like an introvert, parallel to Whitman, coming back towards the central reality and discovering it again and again and putting all the, what Jung would call the noumenosity there, putting the noumenal quality, the transcendent quality there in the center, in the axle or in the oil,


the vital axle. Would anybody read that next from 11.01? Valerie, would you read the poem for us? Between the form of life and life, the difference is as deep, as liquor has to live between and liquor in the jug. The lover, eggs must keep, but all except me, the cautious, the superior, I know, for I have tried. Oh, the only way, has a bad end. Oh, the only way, has a bad end. has a bad end.