Monday, June 4, 2012

The Writer's Voice: Walt Whitman

Here’s one for all the linguists out there.

I don’t know why I was so struck to hear the audio recording of Walt Whitman below. I guess since the man’s been dead for a hundred and twenty years, I was stunned to discover that such a recording even existed. But what really amazes me is his accent- or his near lack of one by today’s standards.

Outside of a couple non-rhotic ‘r’s on “or” and “earth-” and a short ‘a’ pronunciation that sounds like more like a short ‘e,’ the man sounds more like me than, say, FDR or Kathryn Hepburn, two more recent figures from his mid-Atlantic neck of the woods.

And old Walt’s got a voice for tv or radio, don’t you think? This recitation could pass for voiceover work for the US Office for Travel and Tourism.  I’ll post the text of the poem below:

By Walt Whitman

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

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