Commentary

Disciples


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Wednesday, July 31, 1889

     7.45 P.M. W. sitting with Ed in parlor. Hard rains again today, so he was again robbed of his outing. Speaking to him of check for Brown, for engraving, he said: "Is it 13 dollars? Isn't that more than the others? I wonder if he is going to make up on that for the cut we didn't take?" Which I thought an unfair remark and told him so, whereat he said: "I guess you are right. I can give you either the check or cash tomorrow." Asked me how I got along with the book. Suggested several details. "I always leave my title-page till the last and always keep a full set of proof-pages as I go along. It has always been my habit to do so: I have found it a very good way." W. had been cold: voice not at all clear and hearing very bad: had me repeat a great deal in our conversation. Asked me about my country trip last night—of the great rains and how I traversed them, interpolating his peculiar ejaculations.

     He said here— "Tom was in—come about an hour ago. He told me about John's letter—just about what you told me." Adding after a pause, "I don't know where to address John now—whether at Hobart or somewhere else. That is his brother's place—off there in Delaware County—Berwyn—something like that. A land grand and fine from the scenic side—and for its fresh sweet air—but probably not fertile, in the farm-sense—in crops—wheat—what not. I, too, was a land-owner once—oh! long long ago. Did you never know it? Why, yes—it was so: I had a farm—have it yet, for all I know, but guess not. It was a gift—I never saw it—never followed it up—some wild wooded land somewhere off there to the west. It must have been as good as thirty years ago—but I suppose it has now reverted." I laughed, "How?" Whereat he added, "Oh! I never paid a cent of tax on it—never

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inquired about it—never took the slightest interest. It came to me in the early years of Leaves of Grass—even at that time Leaves of Grass had an admirer—a disciple. He was a rich old man—a New-York-City man and with a grand port, too—grey-bearded—fine head and body—I can see him now. But I have lost sight of him—he must have been dead long ago—long ago—and his gift to me no doubt is lost—now in other hands."
He then spoke of country air generally. I described some old experiences in the mountains about Bushkill—the great vistas—particularly the rivers. W. then, "Yes—I can see them all—all: I can take in the whole picture. To one who knows as I do what it all means, it is always painful to come back into the cities—the streets—the stinking reeking streets—Mickle Street—sluttish gutters—women with their hair a-flying—dust-brooms clouding the streets—confinement—the air shut off. Oh! I know with the most knowing what you have described. And I know best of all the rivers—the grand, sweeping, curving, gently undulating rivers. Oh! the memories of rivers—the Hudson—the Ohio—the Mississippi! It would be hard to put into a word the charms of the Mississippi: they are distinctive, undoubted—do not consist in what is called beauty—which, for instance, would be picked out as essentially the wonders of the Hudson—consist rather in amplitude, power, force,—a lazy muddy water-course, immense in sweep—in its various wanderings. The Hudson is quite another critter—the neatest, sweetest, most delicate, clearest, cleanest river in the world. Not sluttish—not a trace of it and I think I am pretty familiar with it—at least as it was—for the matter of 200 miles or so, which is about the whole story. The beginnings of the Delaware are scattered all through southern New York—delicate threads finally making way to union and power. Rivers! Oh the rivers! When you described the Delaware as you saw it from that mountain-top—the fields and hills about it—the placid flowingness—I was there—I saw it all—I felt the odor of it steal about me, envelope me!" He

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talked in this strain for some time, as if his whole heart was in every word.


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