Comment 1 of 2, added on December 10th, 2005 at 10:01 PM.
"The relationship of Walt Whitman (1819-1892) to Vedic thought is
considerably complex. Emerson once described Whitman's Leaves of Grass as a
blending of Gita and the New York Herald. In his reminiscing essay, "A
Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads" (1889) Whitman claims to have read
"the ancient Hindu poems" and there is enough evidence to show that in 1875
he had received a copy of the Gita as a Christmas present from and English
friend, Thomas Dixon. 
Although the mystic trend in much of Whitman's work is unmistakable, but he
was never the less a product of America in its robust love for life and
zest for living.
One report has it that it was Thoreau who led Walt Whitman to dip into what
was then collectively called "Oriental" literature. We have to take the
word of his biographer for that. Whitman, from all the evidence, was vastly
impressed by his readings. It is only in recent years that critics have
come to recognise the deepening of Whitman's religious feeling and his far
saner intuitions of human nature in such superb poems of the late 1850's
and the 1860's as "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," "When Lilacs Last
in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "Passage to India"-a term, incidentally, that
E.M. Forster was to pick up in later years.
Of "Passage to India" it has been especially said that it "contains his
most eloquent idealism." His main theme was the question asked by the
feverish children of the modern age: "Whither, O mocking life?" The coming
together of the seas in the Suez Canal, the crossing of the great American
continent by steel do not satisfy, they are but shadows of a greater dream.
There must be a passage to more that India. The soul, "that actual me,"
must voyage beyond its material successes in order to amplify its love, its
ideals, its "purity, perfection, strength." So "sail forth-steer for the
deep waters only."
Passage O soul to India
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic, the primitive fables...
The far-darting beams of the spirit, the unloos'd dreams,
The deep-diving bibles and legends
The daring plots of the poets, the elder religions;
O you temples fairer than lilies pour'd over by the rising sun!
O you fables spurning the known, eluding the hold of the
known, mounting to heaven!
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as rose,
burnished with gold!
Towers of fables immortal fashion'd from mortal dreams!
You too I welcome and fully the same as the rest!
You too with joy I sing!
Whitman's constantly phrased and re-phrased conception of "the real me"-'I
pass death with the dying' brings to mind the reincarnation doctrine, as it
is specifically mentioned in the Gita."
Bird Head Quilt
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