All Is Truth


O ME, man of slack faith so long!
Standing aloof--denying portions so long;
Only aware to-day of compact, all-diffused truth;
Discovering to-day there is no lie, or form of lie, and can be none,
but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon
itself,
Or as any law of the earth, or any natural production of the earth
does.

(This is curious, and may not be realized immediately--But it must be
realized;
I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest,
And that the universe does.)

Where has fail'd a perfect return, indifferent of lies or the truth?
Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire? or in the spirit of man?
or in the meat and blood? 10

Meditating among liars, and retreating sternly into myself, I see
that there are really no liars or lies after all,
And that nothing fails its perfect return--And that what are called
lies are perfect returns,
And that each thing exactly represents itself, and what has preceded
it,
And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just as much as
space is compact,
And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth--but
that all is truth without exception;
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.

by Walt Whitman

Comments (14)

Derek Walcott is St. Lucian, and this poem is actually about the Castries city fire, where everything was burnt down except the church. But it can take on many different perspectives as described.
Appreciate the poem as it evolves around faith and affection.
I kinda like this poem Thanks for your poems Derek I miss uπŸ˜‡πŸ˜πŸ˜―πŸ˜…πŸ˜€
A lovely sonnet with philosophical musings about life to redeem the joys of life. Thanks.
Really good poem, I'd never read this before. The most obvious thing as soon as you see it is it's a sonnet,14 lines, but the syllables are always higher than the traditional 10, the first line has 15, in fact. The rhyme scheme is: a B a b c b c B a c d d c B The 'b' rhyme occurs 5 times and in fact the upper case 'B' indicates the same word which also appears in the poems title: fire. This repetition of one rhyme and one word especually drives the impact of the fire home, it shows it's the uppermost thing in the narrator's mind, but it also produces an incantatory effect, the repetition of this sound through the poem can ring in our ears and consciousness without us being too aware of it, but produces a powerful effect, like a bell of meaning tolling somewhere in our minds. The beauty of that in this poem is that the devastation that's occurred to the City has been brought about by religion also, specifically that of a hot gospeller, which one would usually associate with evangelical Protestant religion, and in modern times with quite expressive preaching that also uses incantatory effects to produce a feeling and a mood and an emotion in listeners. This is further reinforced by alliteration (and repetition of) tale by tallow and the use of wax at initially as a noun and later as a verb. Some phrases stop the reader in their tracks, for example, Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears: is the candle smoking in the tears like someone might inhale a cigarette? Or is it smoking, as in emitting smoke like a chimney, into the writer's eyes? But then how would he be under the candle's eye? The problem of the phrase is not disagreeably impossible, it just creates ambiguity and intrigue. Why would our character who is the 'I' of the poem be ambiguous when he (assuming it is a man) says he wants to record events precisely: Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire? He's distressed, of course, but his distress could also explain the loss of his city to newcomers who introduced, quite forcibly, strange new ideas and told the people of the city and the surrounding hills that they were sinners of liars, as later, as the narrator is slowly assuming the information the hot gospeller has brought to them (even asking Christ for direction) he calls the walls that represented the last standing remnants of his city liars.
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