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An Analysis Of Walt Whitmans Song Of Myself Essay

Poetry is arguably the most ethereal and incomprehensible form of art. Creating not just an image or story, but an entire concept through mere words strung together in rhythm is a feat unparalleled by any other. Those who have mastered this are praised among the most ingenious of any time period. Walt Whitman proved his own prowess in this field through his publication of many poetic works collectively titled “Leaves of Grass”. These pieces are filled with romantic, idealistic imagery of eternal summers and lounging in fields of flowers with one’s lover.

His own version of heaven is the setting of each poem, along with hints of how he believes we may achieve that paradise. Whitman’s concept of an ideal life is based in the peace and comfort which is brought about through trust and love in every relationship a human can possibly be a part of. Whitman’s most prominent poem is known as “Song of Myself”, a reflection of his own life and experiences in an artistic and conceptualized form. He uses this platform not only to record his own happenings, but his ideal and imagined life as well.

Nature is the motif at the foreground, shown through the multiplicity of phrases including words such as “the sniff of green leaves and dry leaves” and “the wild gander leads his flock through the cool night” (lines 24, 245). Whitman uses this imagery to bring his audience back to their roots in the world. Amidst the bustle of his surroundings in the booming era of the mid nineteenth century, Whitman seeks out the beauty of nature- beauty which does not call out for praise or adoration, but instead exists in itself and for itself.

It is this type of beauty and self-confidence which Whitman admires and strives to emulate. Just as we applaud that which is blatantly beautiful and wonderful, Whitman makes the effort to do the same with things that may not be so obviously good. He says in line 52, “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul”. This phrase emphasizes that self appreciation which we all hope to achieve in our relationship to ourselves, and then carries that idea out into the world as a whole.

In today’s age especially of being belittled and lowered so that large companies can persuade us to invest in their products, it is known that we need to hold ourselves up and recognize that we are creatures of God’s design and creation. Just as the birds and flowers and images of nature are whole and beautiful, as are we. Whitman uses this technique to convey his mentality of a world that is entirely connected and cyclical and that each aspect of our lives has the potential for goodness which must be praised and capitalized upon if we are to find ourselves in his ideal life.

Another of Whitman’s most loved pieces is “I Sing the Body Electric”. This work explores the sensuality and greatness of the human body as a work of art, a topic almost unheard up during the time when it was published. His explorations of the mystical nature and functions of the physical body are unmatched in their descriptiveness and innovation. This poem has been referenced by many modern day artists such as Lana del Rey who wish to emulate that same appreciation and love which Whitman so clearly holds for the human body.

His work is unique, however, in that he describes both male and female figures separately, but does not put one above or below the other. Often the ruling that “separate but equal is never really equal” holds fast, but Whitman is so artful in his poetry that he is able to put each subject on its own pedestal without making the comparison a competition. Reading this poem, it becomes clear that Whitman is in complete and utter awe of the physical beauty of mankind and that something created so wholly from the earth is the most magnificent and glorious form in existence.

The theme of this poem follows his ideal outlined in “Song of Myself” that we and nature are interconnected through a beauty that is so surreal as to be almost unimaginable, and the peace which we find in accepting that is the most comforting of any concept. Whitman’s personal beliefs come out most prominently in his poem “To Think of Time”. He dwells on death and its effects on the living, and then turns the tone at the end of the piece to identify his own idea that all life is eternal and that every being on the planet carries an eternal soul.

This is an overtly Christian theme, as those aware of basic theology will note. But rather than use this platform of eternity to emphasize our meaninglessness in the grand scheme of things, Whitman follows the principle outlined in many of his poems that each individual was created purposefully and intentionally, and because of these qualities and the care that was put into our existence we must act in a way that reflects our acknowledgement of that. Line 72 says “Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form’d in you,/ You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes”.

This phrase speaks to the feelings of insecurity and doubt which are part of any human’s nature and reminds the audience that each person is here for a reason and their existence is the culmination of some very important and special plan. Whitman uses existentialism and the idea of predestiny not as something to fear, but rather as a comfort which he extends to his readers through his poetry. Whitman values respect shown to one another as human beings, a virtue exampled in his poem “To a Common Prostitute” as well as its successor, “To You”.

In the former, he addresses specifically one of a supposedly base profession, the lowest of the low, so to speak. But contrary to how one might expect his tone to come across, he almost elevates his artistic and upper-class language. This is a purposeful stylistic choice, intended to recognize the audience as a member of a higher echelon rather than the opposite. This incredibly deliberate act of respect is meant to highlight the value Whitman places on respect and silently calls for us all to exhibit the same.

The latter poem, “To You”, is much more general in its intended audience, but still manages to achieve a level of personability which strikes readers intensely. It presents a hypothetical chance meeting and questions the reasons one would have for not greeting Whitman himself. The ultimate line then turns that same question onto the reader and asks why shouldn’t Whitman speak to the one he passes by. These questions parallel one another in form, but the juxtaposition of their meaning is what stands out.

There may be several realistic reasons to prevent one from saying hello to a stranger lack of time, insecurity, shyness, introversion, all of which will be quoted by one asked. But in asking someone else’s reasons not to talk to you, a sense of introspection dawns. You are forced to look at your own qualities and reflect on why someone shouldn’t greet you, and often the answers which come up will result in mixed feelings of hypothetical resentment that you’d go overlooked or understanding because you have flaws that might dissuade an impromptu conversation.

Regardless of the outcome, this poem by Whitman is especially clever due to the fact that in a mere three lines it can cause self-reflection and possibly betterment which will ripple out and potentially cause a wide-spreading change in behavior. In conclusion, Walt Whitman was a voice of comfort and elegance in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. While his contemporaries and peers were hustling about with the newest advances in science and technology, Whitman brought focus and attention back to the simpler aspects of life found in nature and stillness.

He recognized many stressors which plagued his loved ones-doubt, insecurity, mistrust- and sought to alleviate their causes. Each of his poems in “Leaves of Grass” seeks out ways to prove to the audience that each individual is part of a grand scheme planned out by some higher power, and that because of that fact we must love ourselves as we would any instrument of a miracle. In the perfect world which Whitman attempts to express, each man and woman would treat others and themselves with the respect and dignity equal to that which is deserved by the most beautiful of all creation.

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