Thursday, 27 September 2012

To a passing creep

This week we have been discussing the work of Walt Whitman in my 19th & 20th Century American Poetry class. We looked at three poems: "I Sing the Body Electric" (my favourite), "I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing" and "To a Stranger". It was while discussing "To a Stranger" today that it suddenly reminded me of a music video I saw long ago of Radiohead's song "Creep". The video illustrated the theme of fleeting encounters and lost connections. I asked the students if they believe in love at first sight. They responded inconclusively. I don't. Not love. Lust at first sight, yes, or infatuation at first sight. As I explained to a friend recently, I fall in love all the time, but I seldom lose my heart.

Whitman's poem is below and below that the video.

To a Stranger

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking
It comes to me as a dream)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become
not yours only nor left my body mine only,

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,
face, flesh as we pass,
You take of my beard, breast, hands,
in return,

I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you
when I sit alone or wake at night, alone
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

I translated this poem into Afrikaans a while ago.


BoerinBallingskap said...

Hou baie van die gedig en die liedjie!

Christine said...

I don't think love at first sight exists. People need to get to know someone first before falling in love. Also, love isn't enough to make a relationship work.
I have known so many people who sold themselves on someone very quickly and then they later regretted it. They were so sure they wanted that person so much, then later on they realized the person was a mistake. Unfortunately, they may have already moved in with that person, got engaged or married, or even had a baby on the way.
There were some guys I had crushes on in the past, yet I am now glad I didn't get into relationships with them. It's not that I dislike them all, it's just that I know we wouldn't make a good couple.
BTW, Walt Whitman is a good poet. I should read up on him more. I liked the poem about lilacs back in college, it was one where he was open about his orientation. He did have it hard being a homosexual back then.

Skryfblok said...


Ja, inderdaad 'n mooi gedig. Die liedjie het twee weergawes; een waarin daar nie gevloek word nie. Ek het vergeet van die kras taal toe ek dit vir my studente speel. Hulle het darem nie te geskok gereageer nie.

Skryfblok said...


I interpret Walt Whitman more as bisexual than homosexual. He has written some erotic poetry about women too. For instance the most erotic, most sexually intense part of his poem "I Sing the Body Electric" is in relation to the female gender.

But I'm sure being bisexual didn't make it any easier for him. In fact, bisexual people often have it worse off, as they often do not fit-in in either the straight or the gay communities.