Walt Whitman's quote from the preface of "Leaves Of Grass:" A Call To Free, Passionate People

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body." - Preface to the 1855 edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass I have loved Walt Whitman since I first was introduced to him in high school. His poetry is full, authentic, passionate, dangerous and courageous. He is never afraid to be himself and to say exactly what he feels and thinks. Yes, "stand up for stupid and crazy," I'm sure there wasn't a large following behind that exhortation, and yet it is so disarmingly candid and innocent. "Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown to any man or number of men." Stand tall and proud and be counted as an authentic, noble and proud person who knows who he or she is and need not bow to anyone. I love it that he asks the readers to "re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book." Learn to be an original thinker. Trust your own judgment. Don't believe everything you have been spoonfed. Don't take second-hand information to heart as truth until you have sieved it through your mind for its purity of truth. "Dismiss whatever insults your soul." It would be fair to guess that some of what insulted Whitman's soul might have been narrow mindedness, judgmentalism, puritanicalness, false morality, hypocrisy, phoniness, bad poetry, hurting the environment, looking down on the common man and the like. This is only a small part of the long preface. In it he writes about his love for the United States of America and his love for poetry that sings. He says about poetry: "The poems distilled from other poems will probably pass away. The coward will surely pass away." How accurate his views. Whitman's poetry is still powerful because he had the courage to show his whole authentic self in his poems. His poems were as unique and as original as he was. The imitators' poetry we do not still study in high school and college classrooms. To me this quote is electric in its vibrancy and power. It rings with the truth of a man's heart and soul. It is a prayer for every man, woman and child. It is a spiritual meditation on originality, art, nature, simplicity, simple people, the poor, God, the uneducated, mothers with families, and for our human frailties and strengths. Author Notes Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 - March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Proclaimed the "greatest of all American poets" by many foreign observers a mere four years after his death, he is viewed as the first urban poet. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and Realism, incorporating both views in his works. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Whitman is among the most influential and controversial poets in the American canon. His work has been described as a "rude shock" and "the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature."

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