‘merican Mystic: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

[A simple definition of a mystic is one who seeks to experience God or the Transcendent.  Many of the greatest mystics have shared some of those experiences through poetry.  This is one a series of posts to share a spiritual poem and several quotations that have to do with some of the great themes of mystical writers and saints.  Walt Whitman  and Carl Sandburg are just two of what I call ‘merican Mystics.  Miracles points to the presence of God all around us for those who know how to see.   Where possible, i have embedded a video rendition of the featured poem.  Your suggestions about other ‘merican Mystics are most welcome.]


Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim- the rocks- the motion of the waves- the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. 
You must travel it by yourself. 
It is not far. It is within reach. 
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.

In the faces of men and women, I see God.

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.

[BOOKS: http://www.amazon.com/Walt-Whitman/e/B000AQ8WUY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1328141458&sr=1-1]

[PHOTO by  Frank E. Pearsall dated September 1872 is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.  Courtesy of Wikkimedia Commoms.]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Quotations, Songs and Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘merican Mystic: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

  1. Kelly Rose says:

    Swoon. I romantize his time in America and yet, there were crimes and social problems like today, but still, … such wide open space. I feel the encroachment in my lifetime, the explosion of tar and concrete and brick and timber and the implosion of personal space that to me defined the young America he lived in, the wide open space then.

    They say that the Japanese are better than most at finding that place within and purposely trying to connect with it.

    On a critical note, he can be frilly for a man.

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