Sunday, August 28, 2011

Walt Whitman said it well

Like many Canadians, I watched Jack Layton's funeral this past Saturday, and the words that were spoken and sung certainly resonated with me.

Yes, the funeral was a celebration of life, but in spite of the uplifting songs and brilliant eulogies I wept all through the telecast.

I kept thinking about two poems written by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), whom I studies in American literature classes. Both are about the death of Abraham Lincoln. One is "Captain, my Captain." The other, longer one is called "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed." Whitman lived and worked in Washington D.C. during the American Civil War and frequently saw Lincoln coming and going in the course of his duties. He loved Lincoln, and although perhaps his poems are a bit over the top by present-day standards, I will quote a section from
"When Lilacs..." that reminds me of this past week:

"..... with the silent sea of faces and the unbard heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn...
"Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac."

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