from Towards Democracy: Part 1 LXIV.
O kisses of sun and wind, tall fir-trees and moss-covered rocks!
O boundless joy of Nature on the mountain tops-coming back at last to you!
Wild songs in sight of the sea, wild dances along the sands, glances of the risen moon,
echoes of old old refrains coming down from unimagined times!
O rolling through the air superb prophetic spirit of Man, pulse of divine health equalising
the universe, vast over all the world expanding spirit!
O joy of the liberated soul (finished purpose and acquittal of civilisation), daring all things...
See! the divine mother goes forth with her babe (all creation circles round)
-God dwells once more in a woman's womb;
friend goes with friend, flesh cleaves to flesh, the path that rounds the universe.
O every day sweet and delicious food! Kisses to the lips of sweet-smelling fruit and bread,
milk and green herbs. Strong well-knit muscles, quick-healing glossy skin, body for kisses all over!
Radiant health! to breathe, O joy! to sleep, ah! never enough to be expressed!
For the taste of fruit ripening warm in the sun, for the distant sight of the deep liquid sea!
For the sight of naked bodies of the bathers, bathing by the hot sea-banks,
the pleasant consciousness of those who are unashamed, the glance of their eyes,
the beautiful proud step of the human animal on the sand;
For the touch of the air on my face or creeping over my unclothed body, for the rustling sound of it in the trees,
and the appearance of their tall stems springing so lightly from the earth!
Joy, joy and thanks for ever.
During last August (2008), a group of fifteen people sat in the ‘Sunny Room' at Laurieston Hall in Scotland (a lovely upstairs room with a great intersecting sun and moon painted upon the ceiling), reading together poetry of Edward Carpenter and Walt Whitman - part of a Gay Men's Week of the Edward Carpenter Community. Together we were amazed and moved at the strength and directness of the poems, with their tender intimate invocation of comradeship and physicality. Among them this excerpt from Carpenter's Towards Democracy that, for me, captures so wonderfully and with Whitmanesque inspiration the release and wellbeing that the 37 year old Carpenter was finally able to experience on coming to the rural community at Bradway and to a life lived close to the land. The sense of his ‘coming home' to himself, to his body and to Nature. The embodied spirituality of the divine encountered through a sensuous, sexually charged celebration of being alive.
Later that same week in Scotland, I was able to catch with my camera a moment, early one sunny morning and just before the swimmers plunged into the icy loch, that seemed to capture something of Carpenter's poem.