Arts & Culture · Poetry

Poetry Sunday: Presidents’ Day Weekend

Walt Whitman, 1887

Walt Whitman, 1887

What is most striking about our featuring two male poets two weeks in a row is that we are presenting them because of their understanding and celebration of women. Seeking a “patriotic” poem for this weekend because we feel that the “Presidents” part of Presidents’ Day weekend has been subsumed by the “Let’s go somewhere” piece of it, we found many a poem that felt dated or inappropriately patriarchal.

Of course, Whitman held the answer, as he so often does when the topic is democracy and our nation.

Notice that this man begins his poem celebrating the equality of women. Notice that he views America as a mother to us all. Notice that he felt that her citizens are “all, all alike” and that Freedom, Law, and Love coexist as her traits and character.

Though only six lines long, this poem speaks of a massive mission and was written by the man who is considered one of our Great Realists. This is a weekend for pausing and asking ourselves questions about the realities of our country and taking the time to discuss them with people younger than ourselves. The country they are living in is the one we have given them. It is the same one that, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the godfather of American poetry described below.

It always the right time to think about where that country went and where this one is going.



Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike, endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

                                    Walt Whitman

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