13 February 2010

First edition

The other day, when I was at a psycholinguistics thing at UCL, I had a couple of minutes during lunch to wander over to the campus Waterstones, an average quality bookstore with average quality chain coffee shop attached. This Waterstones, however, was quite different, given that it was on a university campus, I think. It was fabulous: a whole (albeit small) room of linguistics. A used book floor. It was great.

As I wandered around, I found the rare and first edition case, locked and behind glass, and there, right there, was a first edition of Leaves of Grass. I was enthralled, staring at it, thinking, I wonder if one day I will ever have that. I realised, immediately, that a first edition of Leaves of Grass is not something you buy for yourself, and so I thought to myself, I wonder who in my life would even know that this would mean something to me. I could think of maybe two people at most. I'm outing myself, I guess, making the confession of confessions: I love Walt Whitman and I love Leaves of Grass.

Last year, B & L were visiting in England and we were in another book shop in Oxford. I was looking at a copy of the complete works of William Blake and I made an offhand comment about how one day, when I grew up, I wanted to have books like this. And then, a couple of days later, they gave it to me, out of the blue. It was fabulous — absolutely perfect.

Where was I going with all this... Ah yes, an excuse to post a bit of Whitman, truly one of the most important Americans. Which reminds me that I need to write a post about transcendentalism and pragmatism. Anyway, for now:
The smoke of my own breath;
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine;
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs;
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn;
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice, words loos’d to the eddies of the wind;
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms;
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag;
The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides;
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.