John Lundberg: Physicist Decodes a Walt Whitman Poem

Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; 
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads, 
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads, 
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)

John Lundberg: Physicist Decodes a Walt Whitman Poem

Et in Arcadia Ego; or, On Reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

… or The Evening Redness in the West

And the answer, said the judge. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? … His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes.

Paradoxically enough, a book like this renews my faith in the possibilities of the world, that there is such a thing to encounter out there as this–that it was even sitting tucked away on my very own bookshelf, waiting, a potentiality waiting to be actualized. I don’t know what rough thing such a book lets loose in the world, something terrible and awesome, in the rooted meaning of those words. It certainly makes the whole mythos of the West tremble and come unmoored, in the looseness of which new histories of life and America become possible.

The judge smiled. Whether in my book or not, every man is tabernacled in every other and he in exchange and so on in an endless complexity of being and witness to the uttermost edge of the world. 

It is interesting, too, at the height of the arms race, in 1985, McCarthy writes a book prohphetic of an already apocalyptic human soul, but in 2006, when violence has come to seem more local and endemic, if no less brutal, McCarthy writes a book about the apocalypse of the world. Like all good authors, his mirrors are slightly awry, and we see our own images askew in history and place–as if the end of history, in ashes, was really about the ultimate destiny of the human soul, what makes it human beyond violence, in violence, enduring, but mayhap not forever.

This you see here, these ruins … do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again.

One wonders if Judge Holden, survives into the desolation after this possibly final war, and if in it he simply see the echoes of other desolations past, dim rumors of the deserts of Texas, Mexico, California, the sutured frontier opened again where some wild chaos spills out to confront the too-easy, too-fragile truth of the present…

Or is the truth of his immortality what he represents from the essence of the human, its mindless, eternal violence.

He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.

Election Day, November, 1884

by Walt Whitman
(1819-1892)


If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and
show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara–nor you, ye limitless prairies–nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite–nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones–nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes–nor
Mississippi’s stream:
–This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name–the still
small voice vibrating–America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen–the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d–sea-board and inland–
Texas to Maine–the Prairie States–Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West–the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling–(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity–welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
–Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify–while the heart
pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.