Somerset, PA Daily American
July 17, 2010
as "Riding Along with Walt Whitman"
as "Riding Along with Walt Whitman"
Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
I've been reading Walt Whitman's wonderful poem, "Song of the Open Road," a magical piece of prose that speaks to the heart and spirit of all who have sought the far horizons. In reading this, I think ol' Walt was ahead of his time. Had he lived today, I think he would own a motorcycle.
Always in search of ways to express the magic of the ride, I decided to play around with this poem a bit. I didn't want to post the whole thing -- over 9 pages and 2,800 words -- but I chose verses that I thought appealed to the spirit of the ride, and the rider. And yes, I did "update" some of the language.
Maybe I've committed an act of literary sacrilege. I'm sure the Whitman Society would say so. But after reading about 50 or so of his poems, and reflecting on my own 18 years of open roads, I think Walt Whitman and the modern motorcyclist would be cheerfully inclined to go together, seeking spiritual fulfillment; riding together and singing..."This Song of the Open Road"
Mounted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long path before me,
Leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth, I ask not good fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth, I whimper no more,
Postpone no more,
Need I, nothing.
Strong and content, I travel the open road
The earth expanding right and left,
The picture alive, every part in its best light.
The engine sings amid the trees, the cheerful voice of the public road.
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour, I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently but with undeniable will, divesting myself of that which would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and west are mine, and the north and south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought.
I did not know I held so much goodness.
Whoever denies me,
Iit shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me,
Shall be blessed, and shall bless me.
Here is realization;
Here a man realizes what he has in him;
The past, the future, majesty, love—
If they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.
The outflow of the soul is happiness—
Here is happiness.
I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times;
Now it flows unto us—we are rightly charged.
To that which is endless,
As it was beginningless,
To merge all in the travel, and the days and nights,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach and pass it;
To conceive no time, but what you may reach and pass it.
To look up or down no road,
But it stretches and waits for you.
The Soul travels.
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
All that was or is apparent on this globe
Falls before the procession of Souls
Along the grand roads of the universe.
Forever alive, forever forward, they go!
I know not where;
But I know that they go toward the best—
Toward something great.
Let’s Go! The road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it, and tried it well.
Let’s Go! Be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten!
And the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop!
Let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! Mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit!
Let the Lawyer plead in the court,
And the Judge expound the law!
I give you my hand!
I give you my love,
I give you myself;
Will you give me yourself?
Will you ride with me?
Shall we stand by each other as long as we live?