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    Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: Explication

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    Explication Through a multitude of literary devices and techniques, Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself,” is one of his most famous contributions to American literature.

    He uses simile and metaphor, paradox, rhythm, and free verse style, to convey his struggle between the relation of the body and soul, the physical and the spiritual being. He continues to disobey all social restrictions of the romantic time period. From the beginning, Whitman begins by stating, “What I shall assume, you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” proposing that the reader listen to him, for he possesses all of the answers to life. The setting is somewhat naturalistic, and offers an image of the speaker, relaxing, possibly sprawled out across a blanket, philosophizing about life, while in the middle of a peaceful meadow.

    As the poem later shifts in tone, and setting, Whitman starts to think about the answers to life he has come up with, based upon the past, and decides that the reader should hear him out, one final time, as his ideas have changed. This brings us to #44 of “Song of Myself. ” In section #44 of, “Song of Myself,” Whitman’s first stanza begins: “It’s time to explain myselflet us stand up. What is known I strip awayI launch all men and women forward with me into the unknown.

    The clock indicates the momentbut what does eternity indicate? Eternity lies in bottomless reservoirsits buckets are rising forever and ever, they pour and they pour and they exhale away. ” Whitman is simply stating that he wants to tell the purpose of his madness. The madness that Whitman expresses is that of power and self-confidence. Whitman has written this based upon his experiences in life. Through these experiences, he has grown to know certain things about life and tries to pass them down to the reader. Throughout the beginning of the poem, Whitman takes the reader by the hand and demands that he follows Whitman and his ideas, because based on his own life Whitman holds the answers to the reader’s questions.

    But now, he asks the reader to erase everything that he has previously said – forget the past. Why don’t we try something new? We have to focus on the present, not on the past, but also to focus on what we are going to experience in the future, what can we expect? Well, there’s no telling what will happen. All we can do is move forward and see what happens. He moves on into the next stanza by writing: “We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers; there are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them. Births have brought us richness and variety, and births will bring us richness and variety. I do not call one greater and one smaller, that which fills its period and place is equal to any.

    ” Whitman says thinks that all we know about the future so far is that the seasons will continue to change, just as in the past. Nature will run its course regardless of the situations humans bring upon themselves. He also feels that everyone born, is born for a reason, and has something to offer to society, in some way or another. This is the least that we can expect.

    Whether a person is born into a poor family or a wealthy one, it does not make either better or worse than the other. Whitman feels that everyone is equal, and should be treated equally without discrimination, regardless or social or physical attributes. In the third stanza, Whitman writes: “Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or sister? I am sorry for youthey are not murderous or jealous upon me; All has been gentle with meI keep no account with lamentation; what have I to do with lamentation? I am an acme of things accomplished, and I am an encloser of things to be. My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs, on every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps, all below duly traveled-and still I mount and mount. ” Here is a direct statement towards minorities.

    He apologizes on his own behalf for the discrimination for which they have been plagued. Why should I feel the grief that you feel? I am a pinnacle of things achieved, and I still possess the ability to achieve more. He goes on to explain that he has climbed to the top of the mountain. As he has climbed, he has grown, both physically and spiritually.

    The further Whitman climbs, the closer he comes to greatness, and the separation between him and the people below him is expanding, the further people are from his greatness. This sense of superiority correlates to his theme of equality because he had to earn his way to the top of the mountain, and feels that everyone, if not already, has or should have the ability to climb to the top as well. Then he would not be as superior; however, he insists that ambition is the reason for his superiority, and each person is equal in that they can control their own ambition to become more powerful. The following stanza, Whitman describes the climb to the top by stating: “Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me, Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, the vapor from the nostrils of death, I know I was even thereI waited unseen and always, and slept while God carried me through the lethargic mist, and took my timeand took no hurt from the foetid carbon.

    Long I was hugged closelong and long. Immense have been the preparations for me, faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me. ” Now Whitman begins to explain the journey to the climax of his peak. As he looked behind him, past everyone’s praise, he could remember when he was in his or her shoes, at the bottom of the mountain, eagerly waiting to climb to the top.

    The floating fog grew thicker, and it made it harder to see those behind him. Whitman was anxious to see what the journey along the way would bring to him. As he proceeded to climb, God and his spirits were there to guide Whitman through every obstacle that he faced along the way. The “lethargic mist” is an image Whitman uses to symbolize God taking him by the hand, guiding him through the unknown. This mist was slow moving, and thick, making it difficult to see what lied ahead of him.

    He shut his eyes and let his faith in God control his destiny. Nothing could affect him while in this state of mind, not even the highly offensive smell of the carbon. As he learned, he progressed to the next level, taking his time, consuming all the knowledge around placed around him. He worked hard to get to this point, and not a soul could take this moment away from him. Whitman was also gracious that everyone around him was able to see the desire to succeed that he had possessed, and offered help towards his success.

    Concluding section #44, Walt Whitman writes, “Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen; for room to me stars kept aside in their own rings, they sent influences to look after what was to hold me. Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me, my embryo has never been torpidnothing could over lay it; for it’s the nebula cohered to an orbthe long slow strata piled to rest it onvast vegetables gave it sustenance, monstrous sauroids transported it into their mouths and deposited it with care. All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me, now I stand on this spot with my soul. ” In this final stanza, Whitman sums up the section by telling the reader that throughout his journey, a spirit had watched over him, and as previously mentioned, people were willing to lend a helping hand so that he could achieve greatness. He was guided throughout his early periods of life. Whitman also seems to feel that great people existed in his past generations.

    Hard work and determination runs through his blood, and that his ancestors gave him the power to accomplish greatness. Nothing could destruct what he had so carefully constructed. He imagined himself as a bright spot, a nebula, out in space stuck to a heavenly being. But the spirits carried him to this place and he stands now, with all of his body and soul, knowing that neither can be touched.

    In “Song of Myself” #44, Walt Whitman uses a variety of literary devices. His use of powerful rhythm and the multiplicity of metaphors and images set the realistic tone of the poem. He often contradicts himself throughout the entirety of the poem, specifically in section #44 when he tells the reader to listen again to what he has to say. This is what he tells the reader at the beginning of the poem, to follow him, then, as the poem progresses, Whitman becomes unsure of himself, until #44.

    It’s the use of these literary devices, as well as a free verse style that contributes to Whitman’s unprecedented technique. This poem was drastically liberal compared to previous and current writers of his time. This never before seen method, although highly controversial to social boundaries of the time period, willingly opened the doors and allowed future writers to cross the invisible line, set by previous writers, and express themselves in way that they saw fit. Word Count: 1598

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: Explication. (2019, Jan 06). Retrieved from

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