Walt Whitman is my favorite poet. When I saw our lilac bush blooming yesterday morning, I snapped a photo and then read Joe a bit of “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed.”
I haven’t been as intentional about reading to my belly as I probably should be, but sometimes at night I’ll pick up my copy of “Leaves of Grass” and share a few stanzas out loud.
Whitman’s Lilacs seems such an appropriate poem to observe Memorial Day weekend. It commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the soldiers who fell in the Civil War.
The poem begins:
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,And thought of him I love.O powerful western fallen star!O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star!O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me!O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,A sprig with its flower I break.