With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
EXCERPTS FROM VOLUMES 8 & 9
Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.
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On the Real and the Ephemeral



Saturday, December 12, 1891

Brinton lectures for Ethical Society tomorrow. Suggests coming over to see W. after lecture. W. himself, "Let him come--you come with him--he is always welcome." Then, "What does he lecture about?" "Recent religious movements in Europe." This moved W. into some energetic utterances. "Carry me a message to Brinton. Say to him: it is my opinion that the great affairs of our time (perhaps of any time--certainly of ours) go their way, revolutionize things, re-make, re-form, away, apart from, all churches, societies, liberalizations of any sort; that beneath all the surface-shows are influences--great undertows--through which the world is pressed on and on. Not by cries of priests or tabernacles, but in the human heart. I should say that even to Adler, though Adler knows it as well as I do. We misplace our confidence--see to the wrong place--get hold of the wrong string--admit mistaken credits. It is not in forms, institutions, railroads, telegraphs, factories, stores--all our parades--no, no: these are but fleeting ephemera--these alone are nothing, absolutely nothing; only the absorbent spirit enveloping, penetrating, going beneath, above, all--only this is something. And a ferment on the surface--how little it may mean! And observations--how short the road they lead us!"