Art / Literature

A Clear Midnight – Walt Whitman

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1881).

I love how this poem points beyond itself to a greater sense of humanity, not expressed in words or art. It reminds me of star-gazing and suddenly feeling so small against the vastness of the universe, just like in Vija Celmins‘ 2002 work ‘Night Sky 3‘:

Night Sky 3

Though it can be chilling to be so forcefully reminded of our minuteness in relation to the whole of time, it can also be quite comforting. All my worries and fears are nothing compared to this vastness.

For more on Celmins and ‘Night Sky 3’, see the Tate website.

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6 thoughts on “A Clear Midnight – Walt Whitman

      • Yeah, I don’t know much about the stars either. But I confess, after reading some Herodotus, or about some amazing exploit from history, there’s nothing quite so exhilarating as going outside, looking up and thinking we all share that same starry night. Like you say, the vastness of it, that sense of eternity is very empowering/comforting. . .

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