Thursday, September 4, 2008


One Hour To Madness And Joy

One hour to madness and joy!
O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)

O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man!
O savage and tender achings!
(I bequeath them to you, my children,
I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)

O to be yielded to you, whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me, in defiance of the world!
O to return to Paradise! O bashful and feminine!
O to draw you to me—to plant on you for the first time the lips of a determin’d man!

O the puzzle—the thrice-tied knot—the deep and dark pool! O all untied and illumin’d!
O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last!
O to be absolv’d from previous ties and conventions—I from mine, and you from yours!
O to find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of nature!
O to have the gag remov’d from one’s mouth!
O to have the feeling, to-day or any day, I am sufficient as I am!

O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
O madness amorous! O trembling!
O to escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts—with invitations!
To ascend—to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate Soul!
To be lost, if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.

Walt Whitman, 1860

I am not so sure one can feed the remainder of life with just one brief hour of madness and joy. I think it much more likely that, having climbed those heights once, one's instinct is to want to climb them again and again. And if those heights are forbidden besides, well, so much more the pull to them. I imagine it would be easy to fall into a trap that way, always looking for that same thrill and never finding it. And in the constant search, I also imagine it would be easy to overlook a different kind of joy. Maybe less madness to it, but that doesn't mean it can't be just as fulfilling. There is much to be said for the slowly accumulating joy of tiny little moments of everyday kindnesses and shared laughter and comforts of familiarity.

The truth is that, as we move through life and find each other, we gather more and more ties and lose more and more freedom. Sometimes it happens slowly, almost imperceptibly, other times we choose the ties deliberately and publicly. And while there is intoxication in the thought of breaking free from all those ties at times, I imagine regret would follow such an action. And surely that regret would, in time, overshadow the joy of the moment.

All that aside, reading this poem, don't you just want to jump off that cliff anyway?

1 comment:

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

Rise thither with thy inebriate soul and check thy e-mail,
O, Anglophile!