Art in San Francisco - writing,

     lifted out of context from
          LEAVES OF GRASS * (by Walt Whitman)

In San Francisco, Spring/Summer, 1967, I lifted lines of mystic evolution out of context from the collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. Together the quoted lines formed a new poem, called "Mutate", as a call to action. A few additions of mine are colored in light blue. Although the work dates from 1967, it was unpublished until 2002.

The numbers below jump down the page to find your place or bookmark an anchor. There is a series of seven web pages with the same content, if you prefer. See also the related writing, New Species on the Moon and the section on evolution.

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"What lies behind 'Leaves of Grass' is something the few very few, only one here and there, perhaps oftenest women, are at all in a position to seize. It lies behind almost every line; but concealed, studiedly concealed. ... I think there are truths which it is necessary to envelope or wrap up." (W. W.)

By my life-lumps!
I sing the body electric,
  Now transmuted, we swiftly escape as Nature escapes,
We are Nature, long have we been absent, but now we return,
Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,
     immortal reverberations

Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me,
Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the air
     that we know not of,
That behind the mask of materials you patiently wait,
     no matter how long,
That you will one day, perhaps, take control of all,
That you will perhaps dissipate this entire show of appearance,

I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many
     times and not hit, that which I hinted at;
I will give of it, but only to them that love
     as I myself am capable of loving.

O take my hand, Walt Whitman!
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
Such join'd unended links, each hook'd to the next,
Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all.
What widens within you, Walt Whitman?
What waves and soils exuding?


Something there is in the float of the sight of things that
     provokes it out of the soul.
The efflux of the soul flows unto us, we are rightly charged.
Here rises the fluid and attaching character,
     divine   enveloped
     divine   beautiful
To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the
     ceaseless rings and never be quiet again.
Encircling all, vast-darting up and wide,
O to realize space!
You occult deep volitions

But more in you than these, lands of the Western Shore,
(These but the means, the implements, the standing-ground,)

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that
     which responds love,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings
     of the earth
  the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct,
Undeniable growth has establish'd it.
For it the mystic evolution,
Electric, antiseptic, yet cleaving, suffusing all.
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream

Gliding o'er all, through all,
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
I reject none, accept all, then reproduce all in my own forms

If you would be freer than all that has been before, come listen.
Ages, precedents, have long been accumulating undirected materials
Growth growing from him to offset the growths of pine ...
     off him pasturage sweet.
Are you done with reviews and criticisms of life?
     Animating now to life itself?


Currents for starting a continent new,
Overtures sent to the solid out of the liquid,
To glide with thee O soul, o'er all
Gathering these hints, the preludes

That we all labor together transmuting the same charge
     and succession
We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times
Till we saturate time and eras


     Whither, O mocking Life?
Yet, soul, be sure the first intent remains, and shall
     be carried out;
(Perhaps even now the time has arrived.)

Passage indeed, O soul, to primal thought,
To realms of budding bibles.

O soul, repressless, I with thee, and thou with me,
The circumnavigation of the world begin;
Of wo/man, the voyage of his/her mind's return,
To reason's early paradise,
Back, back to wisdom's birth, to innocent intuitions,
Again with fair Creation.

O we can wait no longer
We too take ship, O soul,
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of ecstasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me,
     O soul,)
Caroling free, singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration;
     like waters flowing.

Passage to more than India


Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those?
Disportest thou on waters such as those?
Soundest below the Sanskrit and the Vedas?
Then have thy bent unleash'd

Is it the prophet's thought I speak, or am I raving?
What do I know of life? what of myself?
I know not even my own work past or present,
Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
Of newer better worlds, their mighty parturition,
Mocking, perplexing me.


And these things I see suddenly, what mean they?
As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal'd my eyes,
Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky,

Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear,
The earth recedes from me into the night,
I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the
     earth is beautiful.

The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow
     and unite--unite now.

To think the thought of death merged in the thought of materials
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you,
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes,

     and the imponderable fluids perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly
     and surely they yet pass on.


That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float
     is for it and the cohering is for it!
And all preparation is for it-- and identity is for it--
     and life and materials are altogether for it!


Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all) them to fulfill
(Some parturition rather, some solemn immortal birth;
On the frontiers to eyes impenetrable,
Some soul is passing over.)


A transparent base shuddering lusciously under and throughout
     the universe
I but thee name, thee prophesy, as now,
I merely thee ejaculate!

Thee risen in potent cheerfulness and joy, in endless
     great hilarity,
Scattering for good the cloud that hung so long, that weigh'd
     so long upon the mind of man,


Thy saviours countless, latent within thyself, thy bibles
     incessant within thyself, equal to any, divine as any,
Thy soaring course thee formulating,

Ensemble, Evolution, Freedom

O how the immortal phantoms crowd around me!
I see the vast alembic ever working, I see and know
      the flames that heat the world,
In each house is the ovum, it comes forth after
      a thousand years. Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me,
Take now the enclosing theme of all, the solvent and
     the setting,
Love that is pulse of all, the sustenance and the pang,
No other words but words of love, no other thought but love.
Give me for once its prophecy and joy.
The ocean fill'd with joy--the atmosphere all joy!
Joy! joy! all over joy!

That which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or
     cunningest mind,
It and its radiations constantly glide.
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
hiding yet lingering.
From unsuspected parts a fierce and momentary proof,
(The sun there at the centre though conceal'd,
Electric life forever at the centre,)
Breaks forth a lightning flash.
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or
     threes or single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.

O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry.
Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain,
Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,


At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing,
Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,
Curious envelop'd messages delivering,
Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping,
Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it
     never daring,
To ages and ages yet the growth of the seed leaving,
Now triumph! transformation! jubilate!
Thou cluster free! thou brilliant lustrous one!
The invisible need of every seed.

Evolution--the cumulative--growths and generations.

And grand their laws, so multiform, puzzling, evolutionary;
More evolutionary, vast, puzzling, O my soul!
More multiform far--more lasting thou than they.

San Francisco

Tweezle Wootz in glass
Tweezle Wootz in glass (see Art in SF)

* The entire Leaves of Grass is on the web. I haven't found the particular edition with the preliminary words used in this lifting. There are good discussions online of Whitman as mystic.

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