Walt Whitman is well known for his literature works, one famous poem is Song of Myself that adopts unique style (Whitman 1). The poem has been described by some of the famous writers as a stream of human discovery. Whitman analyzes various aspects of human life, for instance death which is expected by every human being. The title Songs of Myself means the experiences the poet is experiencing. Whitman presents a strong personality in the poem, he talks to the reader suggesting they are connected he expands his thoughts to cover questions of equality, death and brotherhood. The poem uses a number of literary devices; he adopts the uses of metaphors, imagery, tone, and similes to drive his point home. The poem carries several themes such as, life, divinity, death, life after death and shred experience. The poem has 52 stanzas that describe the feeling of both life and death. This essay shall analyze stanzas 1, 48, 21 and 52, Walt Whitman, Songs of Myself.
Whitman begins the first stanza by informing the reader, “What I shall assume you shall assume”. He creates imagery for the reader and requests that we should listen to him one more time. He tells the purpose of his thoughts, which re power and self-confidence. The first stanza of the poem, the poet is celebrating himself, he recognized that he was created from the soil so did his parents and grandparents (Whitman 3). He is grateful because he is in good health and wishes to accomplish more before his death (Miller 40). This stanza is a celebration of life, that is the main reason the port is singing to himself.
The second stanza there is a combination of civilization and nature. Civilization is symbolized by perfumes (Selby 99). The poet says that he is being influenced into the civilization when he says ‘The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it’. He is however determined to maintain his personality. His description of life begins to hasten in this second section. He says the environment has no taste like the perfumes; the combination of nature, woods and rivers makes the environment even more beautiful. The physical sensations are intriguing to him; he is able to enjoy all the five sense human beings are supposed to, tasting, smelling, hearing, touching and sight. As he enjoys this sense, he recognizes that he is indeed healthy. “My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs. The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn, The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind, A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms, The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag. The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides” (Whitman 2).
The twenty-first stanza of the poem describes the poet’s personal experiences. The section also shows the relation between things and the meaning of truth. He says, in all things the truth lays. He admits to have experienced both the joys and the pins of the soul and body. As he grows the more the experiences he has. He also challenges religious perspective of hell and heaven (Bloom 36). He recognizes the efforts mothers and women have made. He also explains that he is tired of people being modes, since he says it is because of their insecurities. Although he accepts that he has a new attitude every day, he says people should get over themselves. He also moves to describe the earth and the sea. The earth has shown him love and he is going to return the same love to earth. The section emphasizes acceptance and celebration of unity between man and woman, earth and the sea (Marx 3).
The forty-eighth stanza of the poem talks out the human soul, the body and God. Both the soul and the body are important. It is also important for human beings to recognize the presence of God, if there is no such recognition then such a being will be walking towards their death. The poet is spiritual, he says he recognizes the presence of God every hour of the day, he sees the presence of God in people. When he looks in the mirror he sees God within him. There is lot to learn for this section of the poem, the meaning of spirituality in human lives (Miller 78). Sometimes people expect to see God’s physical outlook, forgetting that there is the presence of God in every man and woman they meet and themselves. He asks the people not to be curious out God, since God is everywhere and God is everything (Cohen 3).
The last stanza of the poem is 52 the poet is talking of his disappearance, it more of a farewell to the reader, perhaps his death. He says when one in not available in the place where they are accustomed to be, we should not be worried, rather we should try and find them. When all human, they are buried going back to the soil from which they were created. From the remnants of his body grass will grow, vegetation that shall be beneficial to all of us shall grow. He will still be with us giving us good health (Bloom 33). If we decide to look for him and not find him, we should not be discouraged rather we should search in another place. He is promising that he will not be running or voiding us he has only stopped ahead of us in the journey that all humans will undertake. He will be waiting for us to catch up. The poet’s journey of self discovery comes to n end; he “gives himself to the soil for the grass to grow” (Kummings 41).
Whitman’s Songs of Myself, is a narration of the transformation that takes place in life to death. The opinions of the poets about life and death are striking, he not only presents the realities of life, but the challenges that occur between human beings as they relate. The poet starts by recognizing his efforts and celebrating himself. The poet recognizes that death is the destiny of every human being. In the stanza he recognizes that he comes from the soil and he will one day go back to the soil. All the skills learned and acquired in school are important for the experiences of life. He is ready to live his true life, condemning evil when he is supposed. The twenty-first stanza of the poem celebrates unity and diversity. The poet recognizes the importance of earth and sea and their connection in constituting nature. The forty-eight section of the poem recognizes the importance of both the soul and the body, the poet says, “the soul is not more than the body and the body is not more than the soul”. He also emphasizes the importance of not being curious about God, he also sees God in everyone, and “in the faces of men and women I see God”. Section fifty-two of the poem is a farewell bid to the reader. He speaks to the readers who understand his writing and says he they need to find him; they should find him beneath their shoe soles. This is because he would have died, been buried in the soil and undergoing the eternal life cycle since there is no death for humans, but a transformation. He is not afraid of death since to him is a way to which man talks to God.
Readers are expected to find and define their own experiences from Songs of Myself. They are expected to feel encouraged as they search for him. He accepts his shortcomings, he insists on the importance of the knowledge obtained from the experiences of life. Nature keeps us together; it is what makes all humans common.
Bloom, Harold. “ Walt Whitman”. Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
Cohen, B. Bernard. Whitman in Our Season: A Symposium. Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1971.
Kummings, Donald D., ed. Approaches to Teaching Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” New York: MLA, 1990.
Miller, James E., Jr. “”Leaves of Grass”: America’s Lyric-Epic of Self and Democracy. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Marx, Leo. “The Americanisms of Walt Whitman”. Boston, Heath and Company, 1960.
Miller, Matt. “Collage of Myself : Walt Whitman and the making of Leaves of grass”. University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1982.