Calamus 22  (To a Stranger)

PASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I
look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking,
(It comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with
All is recalled as we flit by each other, fluid, affec-
tionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl
with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has
become not yours only, nor left my body mine
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as
we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands,
in return,
I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you
when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,

I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.


Странче у ПРОЛАЗУ! Ти не знаш колико те чежљиво гледам,

Ти мора да си онај којег сам тражио или она коју сам тражио (дође ми као у сну,)

Негде сам сигурно живео радостан живот с тобом,

Сећање се вратило док се мимоилазимо, непостојани, нежни, чедни, сазрели,

Одрастао си са мном, био дечак са мном или девојчица са мном,

Јео сам са тобом и спавао са тобом – твоје тело је постало не твоје само и моје тело није остало моје само,

Уживам у твојим очима, лицу, телу док се мимоилазимо, а ти у мојој бради, недрима, шакама заузврат,

Ја не треба да говорим са тобом – ја треба да мислим на тебе када седим сам или кад се будим ноћз сам,

Ја треба да чекам – ја не сумњам да треба да те сретнем опет,

Ја треба да се постарам да те не изгубим.

This is just a draft version, but it was a great challenge  to translate Whitman’s poetry. It is even more interesting to see him written in Cyrillic! Some of the problems I encountered was the translation of the construction I am to. The to infinitive could be regarded as a future action (like will) as well as an imperative mood (instead of should), the trouble was to decide what Walt wanted to say. Maybe someone out there has some suggestions?

History of Calamus 22

First time the poem To a Stranger was presented to a reading audience was in a 1860 edition of “Leaves of Grass”, under the name of Calamus 22. From that very edition down to the last “Death-bed” edition the form of the poem hasn’t changed much. Or should I better say that there are no striking changes…

There are a few dashes in this first publication of the Calamus poems, and Whitman decided to change this when he published his Calamus poems for the fourth time in the 1881-82 edition of “Leaves of Grass”.  The dashes made really nice pauses, almost like they’re saying “don’t stop now, wait ’till you hear this!”. Walt Whitman was a true visualistic person, so other than giving the poem a good rhythm, it also looked good.

The whole word passing at the beginning of the poem is capitalized, and I like the way this gives importance to the fact that he is just passing by. It is giving meaning to the moment, emphasizing that things are passing right by, that we have to stop and think, seaze the moment. Carpe diem! It also presents a classical romantic idea that everyone have their pair somewhere in the world. And like the legend says we are ment to look for that other part of us for eternity. The period of Whitman’s life and love with Fred Vaughan, his first known lover, was quite influential on his poetry at that time. He was just opening up, expressing his true feelings for the first time, not hiding anything. Completely exposed.