Monday, February 19, 2018

D.H. Lawrence, Walt Whitman and The Open Road

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
The great home of the Soul is the open road.

The following excerpt is from an essay of Walt Whitman by D.H. Lawrence in Studies in Classic American Literature published in 1923. It has been arranged poetically.

The Open Road

The Open Road.
The great home of the Soul is the open road.
Not heaven, not paradise.
Not 'above'. Not even 'within'.
The soul is neither 'above' nor 'within'.
It is a wayfarer down the open road.

Not by meditating.
Not by fasting.
Not by exploring heaven after heaven, inwardly,
in the manner of the great mystics.
Not by exaltation.
Not by ecstasy.
Not by any of these ways
does the soul come into her own.

Only by taking the open road.

Not through charity.
Not through sacrifice.
Not even through love.
Not through good works.
Not through these
does the soul accomplish herself.

Only through the journey down the open road.

The journey itself,
down the open road.
Exposed to full contact.
On two slow feet.
Meeting whatever comes down the open road.
In company with those that drift
in the same measure along the same way.
Towards no goal.
Always the open road.

Having no known direction even.
Only the soul remaining true to herself in her going.

Meeting all the other wayfarers along the road.
And how? How meet them, and how pass ?
With sympathy, says Whitman. Sympathy.
He does not say love. He says sympathy.
Feeling with. Feel with them as they feel with themselves.
Catching the vibration of their soul and flesh as we pass.

— D.H. Lawrence

Studies in Classic American Literature was considered one of the most important literary works by the critic Harold Bloom in his The Western Canon (1994). While there is debate as to whether D. H. Lawrence is dissing Walt Whitman in his essay there is no question that his poetry was heavily influenced by Whitman.