Toward the Unknown Region

This eloquent title belongs to a poem in Walt Whitman´s Leaves of Grass. It begins:

Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

The epithet ´unknown region´resonates, challenges. This is how we may feel at the end of the trail up the Ngazumba Glacier, three hours up from Gokyo village, as we look out at the wilderness and realize the difficulty of going any further, toward the unknown region.


How jagged and proud the mountains stand, in the midst of dissolution, constantly crumbling. Here, cloud-shrouded, is another perspective on Everest, dark shape in the centre, the glacier in the foreground smothered in rubble and gravel.


According to Wikipedia (

Gokyo Lakes are oligotrophic lakes in Nepal‘s Sagarmatha National Park, located at an altitude of 4,700–5,000 m (15,400–16,400 ft) above sea level. These lakes are the world’s highest freshwater lake system comprising six main lakes, of which Thonak Lake is the largest.


They are also a focus of Hindu devotion especially during the festival of Janai Purnima, usually falling in the month of August, when about 7000 devotes visit Gokyo.

After a hard climb the day before, we reached the summit of Gokyo Ri, 5483m, which affords clear views of the Everest massif.


A dust storm raced along the glacier. Can´t blame Delhi´s air this time.


Then we´re on the way out, light fading as we move down towards Machermo, cheeks glowing in the cold, just as you remember them from cold winter childhood days.


And the unknown region? Walt has dared us, dared Soul. This poem was set to music by Vaughan Williams, his first choral work for massed choir. You can see a performance here:

While it may seem slow at first, it builds momentum to a fine climax in the last four minutes, as does the poem itself. If you like that, then try Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, on a much larger scale, also with words by Whitman.

Here is the poem. I think it is clear he is talking about the translation from the earth plane at the time of death. I may demur at his acclamation of Time and Space though – isn´t our final destiny above? –  but there is no denying his examination of our reluctance and fear and ultimately our exultation.

Toward the Unknown Region (from Leaves of Grass)

Darest thou now, O soul,
Walk with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream´d of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.

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