Sunday, April 15, 2007

Let it Rain

Here's the kicker. I've planned our trip for monsoon season.

photo by Arindam Thokder

Who knew? I'm a teacher, so I really have no choice in the matter of when we go, but the night we rented City of Joy (okay, maybe not the best choice) for inspiration as I put the finishing touches on my proposal, and watched Patrick Swayze SWIM to save someone washed away in the rains, we started to get a little nervous.

Now, some people have told me it's no big deal, just expect a misting every day. Others have raised their eyebrows and said, "You know you're going during monsoon season, don't you?" I've seen pictures of the Rath Yatra festival we plan to see in Puri and, from what I can tell, the thousands assembled seem pretty dry.

photos by Akshay Mahajan

But I've found old news articles about severe rainfall at the exact times we plan to be in West Bengal that describe a sea of mud and puddles, roads being washed away and trains being put out of service.

photo by Akshay Mahajan

While I know why I am going to India, I'm not so sure of what I will find. What I mean is, I have long wanted to go to India, to someplace as foreign to my daily sensabilities as possible. I suppose many of my travel fantasies are rooted in the idea of change and possibility, and that my desire to hear another people's stories stems not only from the hope of coming to know another place, but from the hope that I will find a few of my own stories to tell. It doesn't hurt that the images I've seen of India have always been filled with color, life and light. I follow the sun the way a houseplant presses its leaves against the window. I suppose one of the reasons I prefer living in New York is that we have plenty of color and life, maybe not so much light, but more than I'm used to where Chris and I are from in Central New York.

So my sunny fantasies are being replaced by my determination to be an intrepid traveler, waterproof and prepared. Chris and I have been scouring outdoor gear sites for the perfect waterproof shoes and bags, quick dry everything, including underwear. We're getting ready, so let it rain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Idle hands...

Today is the last day of my spring break, and I have so much to do! I'm going to the doctor in an hour to get a general check up and to find out about vaccinations. I have to get photos taken to update my passport, I have to email the Indian consulate about using the Circuit House while we are in Naya, and I'm still looking for the Bhopa!

We've roughed out our general itinerary. I'm going to include it here hoping for advice about hotels, getting around the country, things we absolutely must see, etc...

The plan so far is this:
July 7: Depart New York
July 8: Arrive Delhi
July 11: Arrive Kolkata
July 14: Naya
July 16: Return Kolkata
July 18: Visakapatnam (embark on guided tribal tour)
July 19: Jeypore
July 20: Rayagada
July 21: Taptapani (meet the Kondh)
July 22: Bhubaneswar
July 23: Konark
July 24: Puri
July 25: Puri for the Rath Yatra return festival
July 26: Bhubaneswar (tour over)
July 27: Delhi
July 28 - Aug 5:...

We're still planning the last week of our trip. It all depends on where we will find the Bhopa. I would really like to spend some time in Jaipur and the surrounding area, taking a painting class, a cooking class, a yoga class... In the meantime, there is dreaming and there is doing.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Careful What You Wish for!

Here I'm posting the proposal that landed me the FFT grant. Being able to read the grant proposals of previous fellows was incredibly helpful to me as I put my own proposal together.

The initial idea came to me when we had dinner in a Polish restaurant with Chris's friend Aaron. As we walked toward the restaurant, Aaron told me about these scrolls he had seen in India and how the artists who made them wrote songs, then painted scrolls to illustrate the songs, then traveled from village to village singing and showing the scrolls. My research based on that conversation led me to the Patua of West Bengal. Looking around in the region and south, I found the Kondh tribe in Orissa, and I was introduced to the Bhopa of Rajastan by an article by William Dalrymple in the New Yorker last fall.

As an eleventh grade English teacher, I trade in stories. Be it poems, short fiction, novels, plays or non-fiction, my students read about the world they live in and worlds they may never see. In response to our reading, traditional academic writing is one means by which my students present arguments about the ideas they see. But I also challenge students to craft their own creative work in response to what they encounter in reading. My students have written dramatic monologues, poetry, short-fiction and personal memoir for such assignments, and, because the study of film runs through my school’s curriculum, they also write and produce their own short films.

For my students, every step of the creative process can raise daunting questions such as: What story should I tell? How do I tell it? When is it done? Why does this matter? My students struggle to select a story from their experiences for these assignments, and also, in telling a story, they struggle to select details that will best bring it to life. They don’t yet know how to share what they observe in the world around them and they don’t yet see value in documenting their personal histories, or that such histories hold a community together.

Further challenges arise, particularly with film projects, because my students are so excited to get a camera in their hands, to get their friends into their places and to shoot a movie. These budding filmmakers often rush the difficult process of crafting a story, writing a script and planning a shoot through storyboarding. They are suspicious of the notion that a well-developed script and a well-planned shoot make for a better film, and they do not foresee the issues that will arise in filming and editing because of deficits in the early stages of creating a film.

To address these issues in my own teaching and in my students’ learning, I want to design a project that calls upon my students to tell their own stories on film, that also strengthens their sense of personal history, their sense of the value of storytelling in other cultures, their appreciation for the process of storytelling and the crafting of a story.

This summer, I want to travel to India to study and film the stories and storytelling of three groups: the Patua of West Bengal, the Kondh tribe in the neighboring state of Orissa and the Bhopa of Rajasthan. In different ways, each of these groups lives by the tradition of telling stories. I want to research these groups and their customs to help my students understand that the stories they know and tell about their own lives, families, communities and history are a part of the greater tradition of global story telling. I want my students to examine the unique sense of time and process that yields a very personal and panoramic view of a specific cultural history, first as observers of the Patua, Kondh and Bhopa, and, finally, as artists themselves.

The Patua’s Creed
To speak the truth is our vow.
Our work will be to establish the truth.
We shall follow the path trodden by great men and women.
We shall serve the poor and downtrodden.
That will be our religion.

With the help of FFT I would like to travel to India for three weeks to study the stories and scrolls of the Patua of West Bengal, the life and songs of the Kondh tribe of Orissa and, finally, the epic poems of the Bhopa of Rajasthan. To share this experience with the school community I plan to film and photograph the communities I visit, conduct interviews and keep a journal, as well as work with a translator to transfer the songs and conversations I will be having in Bengali to English. I will spend the rest of the summer editing my footage into a short film that explores the following key questions:

What is the process of crafting a story?
What makes a story important?
What happens to a culture when its stories are forgotten?

The journal I will keep of my observations and experiences in India will provide the text for a website to be used by students and the school community as we undertake this unit of study in the classroom.

I plan to begin my investigation in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal. Here I will work with the Crafts Council of West Bengal (, an organization whose main aim is to revive, preserve and support declining indigenous knowledge, resources and skills, and to ensure the continuity of cultural traditions.
With the council’s help I will begin my research into the practices and challenges of groups whose culture is clearly dependant on the sharing of stories, starting with the Patua.

The Patua compose stories as songs, paint them in storyboards on handmade scrolls called Pat, then set them to music. They sing about traditional tales from mythology as well as contemporary events, improvising new lyrics for rural audiences. As traveling showmen they are complete artists: painters, scriptwriters, singers, performers, all in one, who document not only the history that has been passed down to them but also the world they live in today. As I have never traveled to India and do not speak Bengali, the council has also agreed to help me secure a guide/translator to assist me in traveling to the village of Naya, where the largest number of Patua live, and where I will interview and film them making and presenting their songs and scrolls.

What is the process of crafting a story?
Upon arriving in the small West Bengal village of Naya, I will film and photograph the Patua, and document their process of conceiving a story, writing a song and painting the Patachitra scroll that brings it to life. The subjects of these songs and scrolls vary. Some are sacred, for example relaying the exploits of Ravana, the ten-headed demon who kidnaps Rama’s wife Sita in the epic Ramayana. Some scrolls recount current events and issues in India, such as conflict in Kashmir, the death of Mother Theresa, the Tsunami, warning about AIDS prevention and encouraging literacy. There are even scrolls commenting on world events, like the attack on the World Trade Center and the war in Afghanistan, with songs about George W. Bush. And some are more personal to the life of the Patua, such as “The Patua’s Creed”, quoted above. The Patua essentially serve as historians, newscasters, moral commentators and plain old entertainers. I am interested in learning how the Patuas are inspired to bring a story to life and the painstaking process by which they do this.

What makes a story important?
From West Bengal, I plan to travel to Bhubaneswar in Orissa, where I will meet up with Kar Yugabrata who runs a tour company, HeritageTours (, and was recommended to me as a reputable guide. From Bhubaneswar we will travel to Bissamcuttack and other points to witness the Rath Yatra festival and meet the Dunguria Kondh tribe. The Kondh are an indigenous tribal group of India who practice elaborate birth, marriage and death rituals. They compose their own songs on love, marriage ceremony, harvesting and nature and use this oral tradition to school each generation in the ways of their culture. For example, young women in the tribe are placed in what is essentially a maiden’s dormitory. In the dormitory, the maiden girls are trained about the tribe’s norms, values and taboos by a senior, often married, women who is the leader of the dormitory. The dormitory is the source of mostly cultural education orally transmitted for learning folklore, riddles, proverbs, legends, myths and songs. Young women stay there until they attain marriageable age and have acquired all the skills and knowledge that are expected from a good ideal wife/woman in their society. With the Kondh particularly, I am interested in discovering how the stories they tell are the fibers that weave together their daily lives, practices and traditions.

What happens to a culture when its stories are forgotten?
My final stop will be in the city of Jaipur and its surrounding area in the western state Rajasthan. There I will find the Bhopa, a nomadic community of storytellers who are considered to be priest singers, sometimes even credited with shamanistic powers. The Bhopas recite the great epics, some of them many thousands of stanzas long, from memory. They sing in front of an unfurled phad, a large, painted, rectangular canvas panel that depicts the life story of the fighter hero Pabuli and the neo-Hindu incarnation of Vishnu, Dev Narayan of Rajasthan. Unlike the Patua, the Bhopa themselves do not create their visual story aid. Rather, the phad is passed down from generation to generation, as are the long poems that the Bhopa commit to memory. The phad panels are rolled and carried around by the Bhopa and in this way are almost considered traveling temples. While the Patua carry on an old tradition, they often tell stories that deal with modern day life. The Bhopa, on the other hand, tell only the great epics, many of which have not been written down, and some of which have been lost with the passing of each generation of storytellers. Those stories that persist are remarkably unchanged, although it seems that as literacy among the Bhopa increases, their memory decreases. Thus progress has put the rich tradition of Bhopa in serious jeopardy. Finally, in the process of learning the history of how and why stories are important to these groups, I would like to also begin to assess what is lost if these stories and traditions die.

Guiding Questions:
What is the process of crafting a story?
What makes a story important?
What happens when the stories of a culture are forgotten?

Stories and storytellers have always enchanted me. This is what propelled me into my life as an English teacher. I feel I have come to know the world and myself through stories. At the same time, while stories are all around us, I know as a teacher that telling them can be a difficult task. The first obstacle is perhaps deciding that a story deserves to be told. I hope that my research will illustrate that the importance of a story is not in its grandness or urgency, but in its ability to communicate and bring people together.

The next obstacle is having the commitment to develop a story. By observing storytellers for whom telling a story is a vocation, I’m hoping to gain insight for my instruction of writing beyond suggesting multiple drafts and added details to my students. I want to understand the crafting and telling of a story as an experience. I hope during my project to absorb the pacing of the Patua as they draft their songs and paint their scrolls; I hope to absorb the structure of the Kondh as they weave stories and traditions into every passage of daily life; I hope to absorb the discipline of the Bhopa as they memorize texts six times the length of the bible, twenty lines at a time. Further, in experiencing the stories of a culture so removed from the western tradition of storytelling I have always known, I hope to gain another point of reference to draw upon as a teacher.

Finally, receiving this grant from FFT will allow me to look closely at what happens to a country whose traditions are so threatened by the modern world we live in. What happens when a community no longer supports the artists who protect its history? I want observe this culture so rich in stories and see the risk of letting stories slip away to fuel my own passion as an English teacher and as a catalyst to spark my students to consider the value of their own personal histories.

Guiding Questions:
What is the process of crafting a story?
What makes a story important?
What happens when the stories of a culture are forgotten?

I hope to show my eleventh grade English class the value of stories, not only as something we read to prepare for state exams and assessments or to hone our skills of analysis, but as a way to connect with people and experiences. To do this, the same questions that will guide my own inquiry will guide my students as they experience the rich story telling traditions of India and approach their own culminating project: To actively engage in the creative process to make a short film that tells a story that should not go untold.

By sharing my observations of India, I want to illustrate to my students that the stories they know and tell about their own lives, families, communities and history are a part of the greater tradition of global story telling. Hopefully the insight I gain as a result of this project, will help my students see that while the means of sharing information may evolve, the compulsion and necessity for doing so is ageless.

While addressing the value of telling stories, I want my students to gain a window into the process of taking a story and making an experience out of it. In previous film projects, students have become so caught up in learning the language of film, the how-to’s of camera handling and the basic steps of editing, that they have glossed over the first initial steps of conceiving a compelling story, scripting it an a well-thought out way, and carefully planning the film they will make through storyboarding. This deficit in their process is one of the first things that drew me to the Patua and their scrolls. In many ways the stories, songs and scrolls of the Patua mirror the first, important steps of the filmmaking process. As such, it is my hope that examining the life and work of the Patua will inform my own students in their scripting and planning process.

Finally, in asking students to select and invest themselves in sharing stories of their own, I hope that their experience of studying the endangered storytelling traditions of India will help them to see the importance of this process. In this way they might see that it is stories that are the fibers that hold their lives, experiences and communities together.

My project will benefit the school community in three ways. First, prior to leaving I will meet with other teachers in my school to identify ways in which my research in India could support learning across content areas. In this way, I may learn about specific questions I should ask or places I could document that might assist other teachers in their instruction.

Second, upon my return, I will edit the film of my project and make it available to the school community on a website that chronicles my trip and my findings. Further, upon completion of my students’ film projects, I will work with the administration and student government of my school to invite the community to a screening of our work and a cultural celebration of story.

Finally, should I receive funding from FFT for the project I have described, I expect my experience to create a dialogue among teachers about more innovative ways to instruct and engage students.

Drawing from the methods of the research I have studied in planning my project, I will document my learning and experience in India through journals, photographs, film and interviews with Indians. With their permission, interview subjects will include the Patua, Kondh, and Bhopa, representatives of the Crafts Council of West Bengal, my guides and translators, as well as people I encounter in my travels. Upon my return, I hope to edit the footage I have captured to create a film that chronicles my project and poses the three questions that I have set forth in this proposal:

What is the process of crafting a story?
What makes a story important?
What happens when the stories of a culture are forgotten?

This film will be posted to a website I will create to share my experience through photos, journal entries and web links.

Further documentation of learning will be provided by student film projects created in response to the same three questions listed above. These films as well as mine will be presented in a screening for the school and community.

The total projected budget for my project is $5,108 based largely on Internet research. To document the Patua, Kondh and Bhopa, I anticipate the trip will take about three weeks. This allows time with each group and time to travel between the three locations they live in. I anticipate that the trip will take place during the month of July, leaving August to edit the footage I’ve captured into a film and to put the finishing touches on the unit I will undertake with my students.

The bulk of my budget will go toward round trip airfare to Kolkata, which I estimate will cost roughly $2,000.

I have budgeted $50 a night for 21 nights of lodging, for a total of $1,050 and $25 dollars a day for 22 days of meals, for a total of $550.

I will travel between cities by train and bus and will buy a 21-day Indrail Pass for $198.00.

Based on research and estimates from the Craft Council of West Bengal and HeritageTours Orissa that guides will cost about $40-50 a day, I am budgeting $600 for these services.

I am budgeting $200 for incidental bus and taxi transportation.

A travel visa will cost $60 and necessary immunizations will cost $350.

I am budgeting $100 dollars for mini-dv tapes to document my trip.

Learning To Sing Our Songs
Essential Questions:
What is the process of crafting a story?
What makes a story important?
What happens when the stories of a culture are forgotten?

New York State ELA Standard #4
Language for Social Interaction: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction. Students will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. As readers and listeners, they will use the social communications of others to enrich their understanding of people and their views.

In this unit we will discover the oral traditions of India by looking closely at three distinct groups of storytellers: The Patua of West Bengal, the Kondh of Orissa and the Bhopa of Rajasthan. Each group occupies a distinctly different niche in India’s caste system and tells its unique stories in its own way. As we look at each group, students will learn why they tell the stories they do and how they craft their stories into an experience for the audience. Finally students will consider the consequences of the challenges that these storytellers face and whether or not a traditional culture can continue to exist in a modern world.

In response to their learning, students will work collaboratively in groups to select and record their own significant stories, stories that they do not want to see forgotten, to be used as the voiceover for a short film not to exceed three minutes in length.
The stories students select must be somehow relate to the their lives, but they may not necessarily be the students’ stories to tell. For example, a piece for the project might be a parent’s narration of the day their child was born or a brother’s narration of walking to school with his sister everyday. It might be someone’s personal observations of a historical event, like the blackout of 2003 or the reports of Hurricane Katrina.

Once a story has been chosen, students must carefully develop it as a script and then record the narrator reading it. In doing this, students should consider the storytelling traditions we have studied and how the groups they have learned about develop a story. Once students have scripted a voiceover track, they must devise and storyboard a short film to support the voiceover. The film may have actors that act out the story but have no dialogue or may be a series of shots and images that support the filmmaker’s vision. After planning the scenes of the film, students will cast, shoot, record and edit.

Final projects will be graded on: story development, visual impact, technical artistry, and collaboration. Students will also be required to submit a series of written journals responding to the experience of learning about the oral traditions of India and how their learning connects to their own lives as storytellers.

Our final projects will be presented to the school community and a screening/cultural festival that celebrates the richness of the culture of India and what we have learned from its traditions.

Upon my return, I will edit the film of my project and make it available to the school community on a website that chronicles my trip and my findings. Further, upon completion of my students’ film projects, I will work with the administration and student government of my school to invite the school and community to a screening of our work and a cultural celebration of India and its rich history of storytelling.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Passage to India

Well, the nail biting is over! I got the Fund for Teachers grant I applied for, and Chris and I will be spending a month in India this summer. He will be my trusty cameraman as I study the oral traditions of the Patua of West Bengal, the Kondh tribe of Orissa and the Bhopa of Rajastan as the basis for an oral history project I would like to do with my students next year. Tomorrow I will post the proposal I wrote to get this grant, and, as I make my plans, I will post any resources I find pertaining to the trip. For now, I'm posting this poem by Walt Whitman, another Brooklynite dreaming of India.

Passage to India

Singing my days,
Singing the great achievements of the present,
Singing the strong, light works of engineers,
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,
The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires,
I sound, to commence, the cry, with thee, O soul,
The Past! the Past! the Past!

The Past! the dark, unfathom’d retrospect!
The teeming gulf! the sleepers and the shadows!
The past! the infinite greatness of the past!
For what is the present, after all, but a growth out of the past?
(As a projectile, form’d, impell’d, passing a certain line, still keeps on,
So the present, utterly form’d, impell’d by the past.)

Passage, O soul, to India!
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic—the primitive fables.

Not you alone, proud truths of the world!
Nor you alone, ye facts of modern science!
But myths and fables of eld—Asia’s, Africa’s 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 roses, burnish’d 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.

Passage to India!
Lo, soul! seest thou not God’s purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann’d, connected by net-work,
The people to become brothers and sisters,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.

(A worship new, I sing;
You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours!
You engineers! you architects, machinists, your!
You, not for trade or transportation only,
But in God’s name, and for thy sake, O soul.)

Passage to India!
Lo, soul, for thee, of tableaus twain,
I see, in one, the Suez canal initiated, open’d,
I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Eugenie’s leading the van;
I mark, from on deck, the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level sand
in the distance;
I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather’d,
The gigantic dredging machines.

In one, again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,)
I see over my own continent the Pacific Railroad, surmounting every barrier;
I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte, carrying freight
and passengers;
I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-whistle,
I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the world;
I cross the Laramie plains—I note the rocks in grotesque shapes—the buttes;
I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions—the barren, colorless,
I see in glimpses afar, or towering immediately above me, the great mountains—
I see the Wind River and the Wahsatch mountains;
I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle’s Nest—I pass the Promontory—
I ascend the Nevadas;
I scan the noble Elk mountain, and wind around its base;
I see the Humboldt range—I thread the valley and cross the river,
I see the clear waters of Lake Tahoe—I see forests of majestic pines,
Or, crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold enchanting mirages
of waters and meadows;
Marking through these, and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
The road between Europe and Asia.

(Ah Genoese, thy dream! thy dream!
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream!)

Passage to India!
Struggles of many a captain—tales of many a sailor dead!
Over my mood, stealing and spreading they come,
Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach’d sky.

Along all history, down the slopes,
As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising,
A ceaseless thought, a varied train—Lo, soul! to thee, thy sight, they rise,
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions:
Again Vasco de Gama sails forth;
Again the knowledge gain’d, the mariner’s compass,
Lands found, and nations born—thou born, America, (a hemisphere unborn,)
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou, rondure of the world, at last accomplish’d.

O, vast Rondure, swimming in space!
Cover’d all over with visible power and beauty!
Alternate light and day, and the teeming, spiritual darkness;
Unspeakable, high processions of sun and moon, and countless stars, above;
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees;
With inscrutable purpose—some hidden, prophetic intention;
Now, first, it seems, my thought begins to span thee.

Down from the gardens of Asia, descending, radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
Wandering, yearning, curious—with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish—with never-happy hearts,
With that sad, incessant refrain, Wherefore, unsatisfied Soul? and
Whither, O mocking Life?

Ah, who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive Earth?
Who bind it to us? What is this separate Nature, so unnatural?
What is this Earth, to our affections? (unloving earth, without a throb to answer ours;
Cold earth, the place of graves.)

Yet, soul, be sure the first intent remains—and shall be carried out;
(Perhaps even now the time has arrived.)

After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d their work,
After the noble inventors—after the scientists, the chemist, the geologist, ethnologist,
Finally shall come the Poet, worthy that name;
The true Son of God shall come, singing his songs.

Then, not your deeds only, O voyagers, O scientists and inventors, shall be
All these hearts, as of fretted children, shall be sooth’d,
All affection shall be fully responded to—the secret shall be told;
All these separations and gaps shall be taken up, and hook’d and link’d together;
The whole Earth—this cold, impassive, voiceless Earth, shall be completely
Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish’d and compacted by the Son
of God, the poet,
(He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains,
He shall double the Cape of Good Hope to some purpose;)
Nature and Man shall be disjoin’d and diffused no more,
The true Son of God shall absolutely fuse them.

Year at whose open’d, wide-flung door I sing!
Year of the purpose accomplish’d!
Year of the marriage of continents, climates and oceans!
(No mere Doge of Venice now, wedding the Adriatic;)
I see, O year, in you, the vast terraqueous globe, given, and giving all,
Europe to Asia, Africa join’d, and they to the New World;
The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival garland,
As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand.

Passage to India!
Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man,
The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again.

Lo, soul, the retrospect, brought forward;
The old, most populous, wealthiest of Earth’s lands,
The streams of the Indus and the Ganges, and their many affluents;
(I, my shores of America walking to-day, behold, resuming all,)
The tale of Alexander, on his warlike marches, suddenly dying,
On one side China, and on the other side Persia and Arabia,
To the south the great seas, and the Bay of Bengal;
The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes,
Old occult Brahma, interminably far back—the tender and junior Buddha,
Central and southern empires, and all their belongings, possessors,
The wars of Tamerlane, the reign of Aurungzebe,
The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the Arabs, Portuguese,
The first travelers, famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor,
Doubts to be solv’d, the map incognita, blanks to be fill’d,
The foot of man unstay’d, the hands never at rest,
Thyself, O soul, that will not brook a challenge.

The medieval navigators rise before me,
The world of 1492, with its awaken’d enterprise;
Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in spring,
The sunset splendor of chivalry declining.

And who art thou, sad shade?
Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary,
With majestic limbs, and pious, beaming eyes,
Spreading around, with every look of thine, a golden world,
Enhuing it with gorgeous hues.

As the chief histrion,
Down to the footlights walks, in some great scena,
Dominating the rest, I see the Admiral himself,
(History’s type of courage, action, faith;)
Behold him sail from Palos, leading his little fleet;
His voyage behold—his return—his great fame,
His misfortunes, calumniators—behold him a prisoner, chain’d,
Behold his dejection, poverty, death.

(Curious, in time, I stand, noting the efforts of heroes;
Is the deferment long? bitter the slander, poverty, death?
Lies the seed unreck’d for centuries in the ground? Lo! to God’s due occasion,
Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms,
And fills the earth with use and beauty.)

Passage indeed, O soul, to primal thought!
Not lands and seas alone—thy own clear freshness,
The young maturity of brood and bloom;
To realms of budding bibles.

O soul, repressless, I with thee, and thou with me,
Thy circumnavigation of the world begin;
Of man, the voyage of his mind’s return,
To reason’s early paradise,
Back, back to wisdom’s birth, to innocent intuitions,
Again with fair Creation.

O we can wait no longer!
We too take ship, O soul!
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas!
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of extasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O soul,)
Caroling free—singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.

With laugh, and many a kiss,
(Let others deprecate—let others weep for sin, remorse, humiliation;)
O soul, thou pleasest me—I thee.

Ah, more than any priest, O soul, we too believe in God;
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

O soul, thou pleasest me—I thee;
Sailing these seas, or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time, and Space, and Death, like waters flowing,
Bear me, indeed, as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear—lave me all over;
Bathe me, O God, in thee—mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee.

O Thou transcendant!
Nameless—the fibre and the breath!
Light of the light—shedding forth universes—thou centre of them!
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving!
Thou moral, spiritual fountain! affection’s source! thou reservoir!
(O pensive soul of me! O thirst unsatisfied! waitest not there?
Waitest not haply for us, somewhere there, the Comrade perfect?)
Thou pulse! thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space!

How should I think—how breathe a single breath—how speak—if, out of myself,
I could not launch, to those, superior universes?

Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
But that I, turning, call to thee, O soul, thou actual Me,
And lo! thou gently masterest the orbs,
Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death,
And fillest, swellest full, the vastnesses of Space.

Greater than stars or suns,
Bounding, O soul, thou journeyest forth;
—What love, than thine and ours could wider amplify?
What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours, O soul?
What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
What cheerful willingness, for others’ sake, to give up all?
For others’ sake to suffer all?

Reckoning ahead, O soul, when thou, the time achiev’d,
(The seas all cross’d, weather’d the capes, the voyage done,)
Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain’d,
As, fill’d with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found,
The Younger melts in fondness in his arms.

Passage to more than India!
Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
O Soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like these?
Disportest thou on waters such as these?
Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
Then have thy bent unleash’d.

Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
You, strew’d with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never reach’d you.

Passage to more than India!
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you, O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you, O woods and fields! Of you, strong mountains of my land!
Of you, O prairies! Of you, gray rocks!
O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
O day and night, passage to you!

O sun and moon, and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter!
Passage to you!

Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

Walt Whitman