Whitman’s Atoms

  • Eric Wilson


Loving journey more than destination, Whitman would often spend his summer evenings during the 1840s and ’50s riding the Brooklyn ferry back and forth between his home borough and Manhattan. During the same period, in less aqueous moods, he would do the same on the horse-drawn buses in the city, moving up and down Broadway, often sitting up top with the driver (SD 16–9). These twilight excursions allowed Whitman to indulge in a favorite activity: moving with no end in mind, taking pleasure in merely circulating. Favoring the potential as much as the actual, the nomadic poet could open himself to possibility, never knowing what the next block would offer, always expectant, hoping for a glimpse of radiance, a sympathetic glance. These revolutions against stasis kept before Whitman’s gaze a steady stream of particulars, randomly moving in and out of assemblages, coalescing into vaguely defined flocks, only to disintegrate again into unique units.


Stable Unity Positive Science Callous Shell Concrete Body Subjective Spirit 
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© Eric Wilson 2000

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  • Eric Wilson

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