This is a rant, and like most such long on passion, short on reasoning. “Whitman, whose professional self-promotion was pretty much as relentless as his literary self-glorification — the two are almost indistinguishable — looks to me less like the father of the American spirit than the father of empty American celebrity: the Kardashians, mommy bloggers, the “creative writing” and identity-study industries, the whole mutually trampling stampede of ineffable individual specialness.”OK. Well, here’s D. H. Lawrence:
Whitman, the great poet, has meant so much to me. Whitman, the one man breaking a way ahead. Whitman, the one pioneer. And only Whitman. No English pioneers, no French. No European pioneer-poets. In Europe the would-be pioneers are mere innovators. The same in America. Ahead of Whitman, nothing. Ahead of all poets, pioneering into the wilderness of unopened life, Whitman. Beyond him, none. His wide, strange camp at the end of the great high-road. And lots of new little poets camping on Whitman’s camping ground now. But none going really beyond. … The true democracy, where soul meets soul, in the open road. Democracy. American democracy where all journey down the open road, and where a soul is known at once in its going. Not by its clothes or appearance. Whitman did away with that. … The love of man and woman: a recognition of souls, and a communion of worship. The love of comrades: a recognition of souls, and a communion of worship. Democracy: a recognition of souls, all down the open road, and a great soul seen in its greatness, as it travels on foot among the rest, down the common way of the living. … The only riches, the great souls.