out of hopeful green stuff woven

In honor of Earth Day, I’m going to post some verses by Walt Whitman, a masterful, groundbreaking poet who possessed an incredible love of nature–of the sea, of the seasons, of man, of a single blade of grass. So many of the poems I’ve posted thus far in honor of National Poetry Month have followed the freeing footsteps of Whitman. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and read his classic, Leaves of Grass . And if you have, read it again, and then one more time. There is so much to marvel at in his sweeping celebration of himself, of life, of you….


From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother’s laps,
And here you are the mother’s laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and


6 thoughts on “out of hopeful green stuff woven

  1. Walt Whitman. I have been with him. I know him.

    He knows YOU too. He has anticipated your coming into this world, so you should read him. After all, didn’t he invent the second-person pronoun “you”? …or at least revolutionized its usage in English poetry.

    He’s always teaching me how to be strong, humble, and charitable. He teaches me how to breed.

    Walt Whitman is why I love America. He teaches me how to be both modest and immodest, sentimental and unsentimental. He is one of the reasons why I love you and why I love myself.

  2. My favorite lines from Song of Myself:

    Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
    Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
    Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
    Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
    Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

    Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
    linguists and contenders,
    I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

  3. Oh boy . . . Walt Whitman.
    I took his poem ” Song of Myself ” on the John Muir Trail and read a stanza each day. The mountains and his song complemented each other in wonderful ways. One of my favorites for sure. I took Whitman to Tuolumne and Vogelsang too and I left Leaves of Grass with Nick when he was on trail crew.

    Also . .. quite funnily . . . I had Sasha read the last part of this when the man burned at Beltane and I was gone backpacking. Looking back, I figure that probably was too serious . . . I should have just had everyone scream “Lesbian sailors” over and over, which is another tradition from the fire pit and probably would have gone over better.

  4. I’m reading Leaves of Grass now for the second time, and it’s even more rewarding than the first.
    “Leaves” has the uncanny ability to speak of the simplest things in life and nature and grasp me at my core in a way that no other author or poet can.
    I just posted “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer to my own site…a wonderful gem indeed.
    Thank you for your page and your shared love for this beautiful human being.

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