Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Columbia Workshop
Show: American Trilogy: Walt Whitman
Date: Jun 20 1944

CAST:
WALT WHITMAN / CHARLES LAUGHTON
ANNOUNCER
NORMAN CORWIN
VOICE
CHILD, a little girl
RADIO VOICE, announcing war news

Compiled and transcribed by members of the Cobalt Club.

MUSIC:

FOR A SUBLIME INTRODUCTION

WHITMAN:

I, Walt Whitman, heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

ANNOUNCER:

From Hollywood, Norman Corwin brings you the sixteenth of his current series of broadcasts and the last of three special programs starring Charles Laughton in adaptations of the works of three American writers, Sandburg, Wolfe and Whitman. Tonight, Charles Laughton in "Walt Whitman."

MUSIC:

WHITMAN THEME ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

CORWIN:

This is Norman Corwin. Since the death of Walt Whitman nearly fifty years ago, he has come to be recognized as one of the great poets of all time, but too seldom do we think of him as prophet and patriot as well. He was very much all three. And, in this connection, I hope you will listen tonight with a special ear to his poems on war, democracy and the future. I have adapted these poems with as little invention as possible, taking dramatic license only to the extent of interrupting with a few of the questions which certainly were asked of Whitman in his time. Every word to be spoken by Mr. Laughton, however, comes directly from the pages of Walt Whitman.

MUSIC:

WHITMAN THEME ... THEN IN BG--

WHITMAN:

You -- whoever you are!
You daughter or son of England!
You of the mighty Slavic tribes!
You dim-descended, black, divine-soul'd African!
You Norwegian! Swede! Dane! Icelander!
You Roman! Neapolitan! You Greek!
You Chinaman of China!
You foot-worn pilgrim welcoming the far-away sparkle of the minarets of Mecca!
All you continentals of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, indifferent of place!
All you on the numberless islands of the archipelagoes of the sea!

MUSIC:

OUT GENTLY BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

And you of centuries hence when you listen to me.
And you each and everywhere whom I specify not, but include just the same.
Health to you! Good will to you all, from me and America sent!

MUSIC:

JOYOUS INTERLUDE ... THEN WARMLY, IN BG

WHITMAN:

I tramp a perpetual journey. Come listen, all.
My signs are a rain-proof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods.
No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,
I have no chair.
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you around the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.

MUSIC:

OUT GENTLY

WHITMAN:

This America is only you and me.
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me.
The officers, capitols, armies, ships, are you and me.
The war is you and me.
Past, present, future, are you and me.

I swear I begin to see the meaning of things.
I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals.
The American compact is altogether with individuals!
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to one single individual -- namely to You.

The sum of all known reverence I add up in you, whoever you are.
The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him.
The Congress convenes every Twelfth-month for you.
Laws, courts, the going and coming of commerce and mails, are all for you.
Sculptures and monuments and any thing inscribed anywhere are tallied in you.
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it.
All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.

MUSIC:

SNEAKS IN GENTLY

WHITMAN:

Listen.
When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
When the script preaches instead of the preacher,
When I can touch the body of books by night or by day, and when they touch my body back again,
When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman and child convince,
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-watchman's daughter,
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite and are my friendly companions,
Then I intend to reach them by hand, and make as much of them as I do of men and women like you.

MUSIC:

OUT GENTLY BEHIND--

VOICE:

Er ... may I speak to you for a moment?

WHITMAN:

Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?

VOICE:

Seems to me you're pretty sure o' yourself.

WHITMAN:

I know perfectly well my own egotism,
Know my omnivorous lines and must not write any less,
And would fetch you, whoever you are, flush with myself.
I am Walt Whitman.
I exist as I am, that is enough.

VOICE:

You like the sound of your own name, don't ya?

WHITMAN:

What am I after all but a child, pleas'd with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear -- it never tires me.
To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations in the sound of your name?

VOICE:

Just who do you think you are, anyway?

WHITMAN:

Walt Whitman! -- a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them,
No more modest than immodest.
No dainty dolce affettuoso I,
Bearded, sun-burnt, gray-neck'd, forbidding, I have arrived,
To be wrestled with as I pass for the solid prizes of the universe.

I wear my hat as I please indoors or out!

I give the sign of democracy.
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.

VOICE:

And what good do you suppose sharing everything is gonna do to you?

WHITMAN:

As if it harm'd me, giving others the same rights and chances as myself -- as if it were not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same.

VOICE:

Hold on a second. Hold on. What are you trying to say?

MUSIC:

STIRRING, DIGNIFIED ... SNEAKS IN BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

One's-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
The Modern Man I sing.

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity.
When I give, I give myself.
I do not ask who you are, that is not important to me;
You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you.
To cotton-field drudge or cleaner of privies I lean,
On his right cheek I put the family kiss,
And in my soul I swear I never will deny him.
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
I dilate you with tremendous breath, I buoy you up,
Every room of the house do I fill with an arm'd force--

MUSIC:

CUTS OUT ABRUPTLY

VOICE:

Look. I don't follow you. You're over my head. Anyway, why don't you calm down? There's nothin' to get excited about. Take it easy.

WHITMAN:

(ANGRY) Did you ask dulcet rhymes from me?
Did you seek the civilian's peaceful and languishing rhymes?
Did you find what I sang so hard to follow?
Why I was not singing for you to follow, to understand -- nor am I now;
What to such as you anyhow such a poet as I? therefore leave my works,
And go lull yourself with what you can understand, and with piano-tunes,
For I lull nobody, and you will never understand me.

MUSIC:

WHITMAN THEME ... THEN IN BG--

WHITMAN:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume, you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of grass.

MUSIC:

PASTORAL ... THEN IN BG--

WHITMAN:

Once, a child said, fetching the grass to me with full hands--

CHILD:

What is the grass?

WHITMAN:

How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than she.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say ---- Whose?

Or I guess the grass is the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you, curling grass.
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men.
It may be you are from old people.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

MUSIC:

YEARNING ... THEN IN BG, OUT GENTLY AT [X]

WHITMAN:

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well, somewhere.
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was, it led forward life.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, [X]
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

CHILD:

Tell me more about the grass.

WHITMAN:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

MUSIC:

SNEAKS IN, INCREASINGLY SPRIGHTFUL BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright.
What stranger miracles are there?

MUSIC:

BUILDS TO A SHIMMERING CLIMAX, THEN OUT ... THEN ABRUPTLY DARK, PULSING, WARLIKE ... THEN IN BG

WHITMAN:

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, I sing!
But I, too, sing war! I too am come, chanting the chant of battle!

MUSIC:

BUILDS TO A CLIMAX ... THEN OUT

SOUND:

RAPID BEEP OF TELEGRAPH KEY BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

I will acknowledge contemporary lands,
I will trail the whole geography of the globe and salute courteously every city large and small,
I will put in my poems heroism upon land and sea,
And I will report all heroism from an American point of view.

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

RADIO VOICE:

(FILTER) Distingished Service Stars today were conferred upon the following men--

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY FADES OUT BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

Brave, brave were the soldiers -- high named to-day -- who lived throughout the fight;
But the bravest press'd to the front and fell, unnamed, unknown.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

RAPID BEEP OF TELEGRAPH KEY BEHIND--

RADIO VOICE:

(FILTER) Washington confirms the execution by Japanese authorities of American prisoners-- Berlin admits Nazi mobs have lynched at least five American flyers--

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY FADES OUT BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

Corpses lie in new-made graves, bloody corpses of young men.
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets of princes fly, the creatures of power laugh aloud.
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc'd by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless --
They live in other young men, O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
They were purified by death, they were exalted!
Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed for freedom, in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

RAPID BEEP OF TELEGRAPH KEY BEHIND--

RADIO VOICE:

(FILTER) A major counterattack impends in the area south of Cherbourg--

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY FADES OUT BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

The soldier camp'd or upon the march is mine.
On the night before the pending battle many seek me, and I do not fail them,
On this solemn night -- it may be their last -- those that know me, seek me.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

RAPID BEEP OF TELEGRAPH KEY BEHIND--

RADIO VOICE:

(FILTER) Resistance of the French underground in support of the Allied invaders is increasing hourly--

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY FADES OUT

MUSIC:

TURNS TO LOW PIANO, THEN FADES OUT BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

O star of France,
The brightness of your hope and strength and fame,
Like some proud ship that led the fleet so long,
Seems to-day a wreck driven by the gale, a mastless hulk,
And 'mid its teeming madden'd half-drown'd crowds,
Nor helm nor helmsman.
Dim smitten star;
Star crucified -- by traitors sold,
Star panting o'er a land of death, heroic land,
Miserable! Yet for your errors, vanities, sins, I will not now rebuke you.
Your unexampled woes and pangs have quell'd them all,
And left you sacred.

MUSIC:

SNEAKS IN BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

O ship of France, beat back and baffled long!
Bear up, continue on!
Sure as the ship of all, the Earth itself,
Onward beneath the sun following its course,
So you, O ship of France!
Finish'd the days, the clouds dispel'd
The travail o'er, the long-sought extrication,
Reborn, high o'er the European world,
Again your star, O France, fair lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall beam immortal!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR AN ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SOUND:

RAPID BEEP OF TELEGRAPH KEY BEHIND--

RADIO VOICE:

(FILTER) Combined Allied naval forces are planning extensive campaigns in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters--

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY FADES OUT BEHIND--

WHITMAN:

Of ships sailing the seas,
Of unnamed heroes in the ships -- of waves spreading and spreading as far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing,
And out of these, a chant for the sailors of all nations!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A GRAND, OCEANIC ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

WHITMAN:

Flaunt out, O sea, your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out the various ship-signals!
But reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o'er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A GRAND, OCEANIC ACCENT ... THEN MORE EARTHY IN BG

WHITMAN:

I am for those who walk abreast with the whole earth.
I see the male and female everywhere,
I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs,
I see the results of perseverance and industry,
I see ranks, colors, civilizations, I go among them, I mix indiscriminately,
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth!
Each of us inevitable,
Each of us limitless -- each of us with his or her right upon the earth,
Each of us here as divinely as any is here.
That is what I have learnt from America

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A GLORIOUS ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

WHITMAN:

Listener, out there! I stay only a minute longer.
The past and present wilt. I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A CURT ACCENT ... THEN OUT

WHITMAN:

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

MUSIC:

WHITMAN THEME ... THEN IN BG

WHITMAN:

I see not America only, not only Liberty's nation but other nations preparing,
I see tremendous entrances and exits, new combinations, the solidarity of races,
I see that force advancing with irresistible power on the world's stage,
I see Freedom, completely arm'd and victorious and very haughty, with Law on one side and Peace on the other,
A stupendous trio all issuing forth against the idea of caste;
What historic denouements are these we so rapidly approach?
I see men marching and countermarching by swift millions,
I see the frontiers and boundaries of the old aristocracies broken,
I see the landmarks of European kings removed.
Never were such sharp questions ask'd as this day,
Never was average man, his soul, more energetic, more like a god,
His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere, he colonizes the Pacific, the archipelagoes,
With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the wholesale engines of war,
With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all geography, all lands.

What whispers are these, O lands, running ahead of you, passing under the seas?
Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the globe?
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era!

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A SPECTACULAR FINISH

ANNOUNCER:

You have been listening to Charles Laughton in Norman Corwin's production of "Walt Whitman," last of an American trilogy and sixteenth of Mr. Corwin's series for CBS. Except for minor interpolations, the script was derived entirely from "Leaves of Grass." The musical score was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann.

LAUGHTON:

This is Charles Laughton and I've come back to say a few words not written by Walt Whitman, but nevertheless having to do with the making of the kind of world he envisioned. For if freedom is to be, as he put it, "completely arm'd and victorious," we must support our fighting men. We must back the attack on every front and the best way to do that is to buy bonds.

ANNOUNCER:

This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.