By Chet Yarbrough
Leaves of Grass (1855 Edition)
By: Walt Whitman
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
Walt Whitman (Poet, 1819-1892)
“Leaves of Grass” is perfectly rendered by Edoardo Ballerini. Walt Whitman’s masterpiece shines in Ballerini’s narration. Whitman lived in one of America’s most tumultuous times. He lived through the build-up of the civil war, worker displacement from American industrialization, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Despite the horrors of his time, Whitman celebrated life.
Today is a good time to listen to Whitman’s masterwork. Living in the time of Covid19, Russia’s attack on Ukraine, January 6 violence in the nation’s capital, probable arrest of a former President, natural disasters, climate change, threat of Armageddon, American poverty, immigration, and homelessness—all can overwhelm one’s senses. Whitman understood the difficulties of his time but rises above them by celebrating what being American means.
Being American means being free within the context of rule-of-law. Being American means freedom to vote for representative government. Being American means freedom of speech and the press within the bounds of slander toward others.
Just as was true in the time of Walt Whitman, there is no guarantee of peace and tranquility, but his blank verse reflects on the many positive values of living life as an American. Whitman implies Americans should celebrate what they have, not what they want.