Walt Whitman Bursts Into Song Concerning the Civic Debate over Jets at Toronto Island Airport

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Come said the Muse,

  Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,

  Sing me the universal.


 In this broad earth of ours,

  Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,

  Enclosed and safe within its central heart,

  Nestles the seed perfection.

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  By every life a share or more or less,

  None born but it is born, conceal’d or unconceal’d the seed is waiting.

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  Lo! keen-eyed towering science,

  As from tall peaks the modern overlooking,

  Successive absolute fiats issuing.

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  Yet again, lo! the soul, above all science,

  For it has history gather’d like husks around the globe,

  For it the entire star-myriads roll through the sky.

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 In spiral routes by long detours,

  (As a much-tacking ship upon the sea,)

  For it the partial to the permanent flowing,

  For it the real to the ideal tends.

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  For it the mystic evolution,

  Not the right only justified, what we call evil also justified.

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 Forth from their masks, no matter what,

  From the huge festering trunk, from craft and guile and tears,

  Health to emerge and joy, joy universal.

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 Out of the bulk, the morbid and the shallow,

  Out of the bad majority, the varied countless frauds of men and states,

  Electric, antiseptic yet, cleaving, suffusing all,

  Only the good is universal.

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 Over the mountain-growths disease and sorrow,

  An uncaught bird is ever hovering, hovering,

  High in the purer, happier air.

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  From imperfection’s murkiest cloud,

  Darts always forth one ray of perfect light,

  One flash of heaven’s glory.

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  To fashion’s, custom’s discord,

  To the mad Babel-din, the deafening orgies,

  Soothing each lull a strain is heard, just heard,

  From some far shore the final chorus sounding.

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  O the blest eyes, the happy hearts,

  That see, that know the guiding thread so fine,

  Along the mighty labyrinth.

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Song of the Universal

Walt Whitman, from Book XVII: Birds of Passage, Leaves of Grass, Project Gutenberg

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Imagining Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) addressing this issue,

I considered his thoughts pertaining to all matters,

expressed in his poetry.

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Archival, public domain photographs of Toronto Island found on Wikimedia Commons.

Images include:

Painting by Arthur Cox (1840 – 1917) Toronto from the Island, 1875 (Public Domain), Toronto Public Library


A 1907 postcard of a Toronto Ferry Company ferry crossing the bay from the city of Toronto to the Toronto Islands, (Public Domain) Halton Hill Public Library


Hanlan’s Point Hotel and Regatta, 1907, (Public Domain) photo: William James, City of Toronto Archives


Milkman, Toronto Islands, 1944, Public Domain


Photo of Main Street (below), Centre Island, Toronto, 1944, Souvenir Folder of Toronto Islands, Photogelatine Engraving, Ottawa, Ontario (Public Domain)


 The majority of Toronto residents living on Toronto Island were evacuated in the 1950s to make room for parkland. 


The source for the pterodactyl jet was a generic, uncredited image.