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Alain’s story: Leaves of Grass Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Posted by carryapoem in Stories.
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It’s Walt Whitman and his ‘Leaves of Grass’. There’s one poem called ‘A Song for Occupations’, and Walt Whitman was absolutely fascinated by the here and now in 19th century America, and he particularly was interested in the way that people were working. And this poem is basically an enormous long list of people’s jobs, in all their particularities and specialisations. And it’s like a hymn to modern labour, it’s kind of mesmeric:

House-building, measuring, sawing the boards,
Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing,
Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and brickkiln,
Coal-mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness,
echoes, songs, what meditations…

Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life.’ You can read more about him on his website.