A Poem for Flag Day

Contributed by Walter McClennen

Of Walt Whitman and his time:

In 1855, America was reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and feeling the first strong fires of the coming Civil War as struggles broke out in Kansas and Nebraska.  In Brooklyn, Walt Whitman published his masterpiece first volume, Leaves of Grass.  One short, eleven line piece, in that work was entitled, “I Hear America Singing.”  It spoke of a positive nation rising due to the efforts of the common people of the land.  Through the past eight months, we also have felt deep national trauma – politics – pandemic – economic collapse.   Yet out my window, I see in our town the common people that Whitman saw.  Abundant and productive life goes on down my street and around the block and into the town center.  Even houses are built against all odds. So I strive to chant today as Whitman might have chanted if he were in our small American town this year.  Whitman knew how to sing for his country even through a time of tears.

(With apologies to Walt Whitman for attempting to channel his wisdom and his song…..)

(The reader is urged to search on line, “I Hear America Singing – Whitman poem text” to enjoy the real poet who served us so well 165 years ago.)

©Walter McClennen, 2020

(Walter McClennen lives and writes small histories in Mudville.)

The Publishers


  1. Pat fuller on June 14, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    WOW! Faithful to Whitman and authentic pandemic experience for many of us.

  2. caroline cockrill on June 15, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Uplifting! The positive side of now.

  3. Doug Brown on June 16, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful and optimistic message to our town. Your timeless words are truly inspirational during this painful pandemic we are forced to endure.

  4. Franklin D. Rothman on June 25, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks, Walter, for your historical perspective, sharing these uplifting words and message during this public health and economic crisis in Massachusetts and all of the United States and around the world. As you mention, Walt Whitman was from Brooklyn, NY (as you know I was born and raised in Brooklyn) and during my undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College, from 1961 to 1965, I would think of him as I passed Walt Whitman Hall, on the BC campus.
    Lena and I are living in her hometown in Brazil, Bocaiuva, population approximately 50,000, in Minas Gerais State. As the Brazilian and international press has reported, Brazil is in the midst of a political, as well as public health and economic crisis. The spread of Covid-19 is still out of control and, although most cases have been in metropolitan areas, we’re very concerned that there is now a surge in both the capital and interior of our state and region. We continue in lockdown and intend and expect to continue our voluntary quarantine at least until the end of 2020.
    I do not know if there’s any coincidence with Walter’s neighbors in Holliston who are building, but there’s at least four of our neighbors who are either building a house from scratch or adding on their existing house. I do hope that, at least in part, it’s a reflection of their spirit of optimism in the face of this terrible, unprecedented crisis.

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