Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"As Consequent, Etc." (1881)
Author:
Chandran, K. Narayana
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Published as one of the four new poems in "Autumn Rivulets," a cluster Whitman prepared for his 1881 Leaves of Grass, "As Consequent, Etc." is appropriately the very first poem of the cluster. It introduces the poet's metaphor of rivulets, the rivulets being his poems as well as the American currents of progress and reform.

The opening stanza introduces some common themes of "Autumn Rivulets": nature's bountiful store and supply; America's coming of age through years of struggle; the continued vigor and creative will of her people; time and death. The poet's songs are compared to "wayward rivulets" caused by summer rains, underground rills making for the sea, or the reticulated progress of a brook lined with herbs. The disorderly rush of the poet's ideas and images meets an answering figurative description in these lines.

The rivulets are also "Life's ever-modern rapids," the signs of the nation's progress now manifested in Ohio's fields and woods, Colorado's canyons, Atlantica's bays, and the seas. In fact the poet sees the rivulets as currents that energize, inspire, and transform both himself and his readers—tiny currents, all flowing toward the mystic ocean of one supreme being. This union is further celebrated as "Fusion of ocean and land," as bridging abysses and canyons, the here and the hereafter. The poet is ecstatic at the thought that this mystic power infuses the whole world and runs through forms of life everywhere. The songs are also weeds and shells cast ashore by the sea of time. The singer gathers them all—souvenirs and tokens from a vast mystic sea. He values them for their music, their reverberations, no matter how far or faint. These soundings are important to him ,for their "tidings [are] old, yet ever new and untranslatable."

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Miller, James E., Jr. A Critical Guide to "Leaves of Grass." Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition. Ed. Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley. New York: New York UP, 1965.


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