‘Do I contradict myself?
Very well, I contradict myself
(I am large; I contain multitudes)’
It is difficult for a European to accept American individualism as an unambiguous Good Thing. ‘But it’s selfish!’ we cry. ‘And lonely! And what about universal healthcare?’
However, today I feel in the mood for some Whitman, whose barbaric yawp silences my inner Eurotrash so that, like Molly Bloom, I assent joyfully. This is a good poem for the start of a century.
- ‘I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumesthe shelves are crowded with perfumes;
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfumeit has no taste of the distillationit is odorless;
It is for my mouth foreverI am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.’