Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Paths Untrodden and Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 1868, Albert BierstadtSmithsonian American Art Museum,  Washington, DC

In Paths Untrodden

In paths untrodden,
In the growth by margins of pond-waters,
Escaped from the lite that exhibits itself,
From all the standards hitherto publish'd, from the pleasures,
profits, conformities,
Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,
Clear to me now standards not yet publish'd, clear to me that my soul,
That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,
Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash'd (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I 
would not dare elsewhere,)
Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet contains
all the rest,
Resolv'd to sing no songs to-day but of manly attachment,
Projecting them along that substantial life,
Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,
Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month of my forty-first year,
I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secrets my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.

~Walt Whitman (1819-92)

The Bierstadt painting is breathtaking, quite literally in person at the Smithsonian along with many other American Landscape paintings; however the light and depth of field of this particular painting gives the viewer a moment to feel as if they could step through the canvas and through time into the untrodden America.  

It was Whitman's 41st year of life much like it is about to be mine and he was becoming fully conscious that he had a yearning to do things which he was previously denied by 'all standards' and 'conformities' of his place and time.  He felt he should be more free to express his spiritual and creative self and should have been further along in his self-discovery.  He also had a new understanding of the love of his friends (comrades).  

While Whitman is a man, I can relate to the feeling of an intense yearning to escape your cocoon....  Getting your wings but not quite sure how to use them..... A yearning to fly.... Of learning the true value of your friends... For as my 41st year approaches I have done all these things and my wingspan continues to increase.....

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