Thanksgiving Is Ruined
December 31, 2016
HAVE I no weapon-word for thee -- some message brief and fierce?
(Have I fought out and done indeed the battle?) Is there no shot left,
For all thy affectations, lisps, scorns, manifold silliness?
Nor for myself -- my own rebellious self in thee?
Above is the first stanza of "To the Pending Year."
Does the second and final stanza feature the word "eleemosynary"? Why, of course it does.
Stumbled upon at random within the past 24 hours while thumbing through this fine volume.
Is the "thee" in the poem the reader? The year envisioned ahead? The year bid farewell behind? The arc of history, the march of time itself?
As so often, Whitman's anathemas seem boomerang shaped. Once thrown, they can loop back to clobber the thrower. Here does he have, maybe not a moral duty, but an ethical impulse?
[I give nothing as duties;
What others give as duties, I give as living impulses;
(Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?)
-- "Myself and Mine," 1867]
To see more clearly, feel more compassionately, name things more bravely? Acknowledge to the extent he got swept up in the "affectations," the "manifold silliness"? To maintain maximum humanity in the face of whatever new clouds of stupidity, failure or even disaster are gathering on the horizon?
Whitman astonishingly wrote the poem for the beginning of 1889 -- not 1860. Or 2017.