Expansive Poetics – 14 (Walt Whitman – 3)

“Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care”

AG: Well, he (Whitman) says, in section 44 (of “Song of Myself”) – “It is time to explain myself”, at long last – “Let us stand up./ What is known I strip away/ I launch all men and women forward into the Unknown/ The clock indicates the moment – but what does eternity indicate?/ We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,/ There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them./ Births have brought us richness and variety,. And other births will bring us richness and variety./ I do not call one greater and one smaller/That which fills its period and place is equal to any/  Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister?/ I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,/ All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,/ (What have I to do with lamentation?)/ I am the acme of things accomplish’d, and I an encloser of things to be./ My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs/On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,/ All below duly travel’d, and still I mount and mount.” – Well, there’s a funny thing going on there, because, actually, there’s a literalness to what he’s saying too, now. Because he is the by-product of a long, long, long, trillionic-eons many-billioned kalapaed evolution to have arrived where he is in the footsteps of Walt Whitman, carrying his bones around and wearing his animal shoes.

Then he’s got this great line – “Before I was born out of my mother, generations guided me,/ My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it” – His “embryo”! – “For it is the nebula cohered to an orb,/The last slow strata piled to rest it on,/Vast vegetables gave it sustenance/Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care” – That’s a terrific line, I think

Student: What was that again?

AG: “Monstrous sauroids” –  S-A-U-R-O-I-D-S

Student: What’s a sauroid?

AG: What’s a sauroid?

Student: Lizard  [Editorial note: from the Greek word “sauros”]

AG: A lizard

Student: Yeah.. Wow!

AG:  “Monstrous…”

Student: Prehistoric monsters

AG: Yeah, well, big, big, big ones

Student: Yeah, dinosaurs [Editorial note: from the Greek words for “thunder” and “lizard”]

AG: “Monsterous sauroids” – I think they’re the vegetable-eaters.

Student: Sauroids, yeah, brontosaurus, and..

AG: Yeah. “Monsterous sauroids” – Pardon me?

Student: Flying lizards? With 70-foot wing-spans, or something like that?

AG: Were they the sauroids? No, they’re the pterodactyls or something [Editorial note – a pterodactyl is a member of the pterosauroids – flying lizards – from the Greek words for “wing” and “lizard”]

Student; Well, there are lot of different ones

AG: Okay. Does anybody know the…

Student: The saroids must be the, you know, like brontosaurus and.. dipshitsaurus!

AG; Yeah. Ok. ( So) I’d like to introduce CC, who recently arrived as the teaching assistant in this class – former expert in the Boston zoological garden birdhouse. So he may have some knowledge of the sauroids.

Student (CC): How to clean up after them!

AG: How to clean up after the sauroids – “Monsterous sauroids transported”  his “embryo”, “in their mouths and deposited it with care” – terrific line! – (Jack) Kerouac inherited that kind of exaggeration. Exaggeration rhetoric.

So, in section 46, finally, it concludes [Allen, in fact, reads from the conclusion of section 45] – “My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain,/ The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms/ The great Camerado, the true lover for whom I pine will be there.”

Student: Oh!

AG: Well, why not? I mean, if “monstrous sauroids” were there. So [Allen now reading from section 46] –  “Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth,/ Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.”

[Audio for the above is available here, starting at approximately twenty-one minutes in and concluding approximately twenty-four-and-a-half minutes in]

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