Meditation and Poetics – (Whitman – 11)

Bathers – (c.1894) – Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) – oil on canvas, 50 cm x 60 cm – Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Ginsberg on Whitman continues

AG: Go on to Section 16 (of Leaves of Grass). Well, yeah, inquisitiveness. In this case a demonstration of it, operating on the erotic level, a projection of Whitman onto a young lady. [Allen begins reading] – “Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore…” Section 11 – does everybody know that particular Whitman? – “Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore..” – does anybody not know it? – “Twenty-eight young..” Well, that’s actually the greatest moment in Whitman – the second greatest, fifteenth-greatest, moment. – “Twenty eight young…” I mean,I’ve been in this moment many times Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,/Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly,/ Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome./ She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,/She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window./ Which of the young men does she like the best?/Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her./ Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,/You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room./ Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather./The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them./ The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,/Little streams pass’d all over their bodies./ An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies/It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs./ The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do/not ask who seizes fast to them./They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending arch,/They do not think who they souse with spray.” – Well, that’s complete empathy there.
So what is empathy, then? In this case, it seems empathizing with a lady spinster looking out of her blinds at naked men bathing on the shore. Obviously, it’s Whitman whose hand is passing tremblingly down their bodies, from their temples and ribs.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in, and continuing to approximately forty-six-and-a-half minutes in]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *