Sunday, September 11, 2011

Walt Whitman Blog #6

Blog: Walt Whitman
Songs of Myself

To begin: I had quite a few questions. In the first section at line 12 he said:
 I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy.
What does he mean? Before these two lines he talks about “creeds” and “schools” being in a state of temporary disuse. So is he talking about schools not being in session? 

Also, line 121&122:  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 their laps. A few lines later he says that they are alive and living well, during this part of the poem I really started to get confused as to what he was referencing. 

Lastly, in section 9 he talks about big doors of the country barn and then he says he is there he helps, but what is he helping? 


I really enjoyed this poem. I remember reading Leaves of Grass, but did not focus on it that intently, but I am really regretting that I didn’t. Whitman gives such a portrayal of what he sees in America. As I was reading it I felt that he was not talking down as I did with Emerson.  I think that his vision of American is as one mass. He talks a lot about being “one.” For example in the second line of this poem he says “And what I assume you shall assume For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” It makes me think of Emerson because he didn’t agree with this, but yet him and Whitman are both transcendentalist. I think they had the same idea just different ways to reach it because Whitman throughout the poem makes these scenarios of all kinds of people.

He talks about slaves a lot and how “I” the narrator helped him get clean and on his feet so that he could continue his travels to the north. So I am assuming that he was against slavery. When he is in the midst of his descriptions he uses language that is not demeaning as we have seen in other works. For example when he talking about the “negro” who holds firmly the reins of his four horses, he says that his “blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast” and he says “his glance is calm and commanding.” In all of these descriptions he doesn’t use belittling language, if anything he is talking about how strong physically and mentally is this man.
My favorite line of this poem is in section 3 line 52: Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.  I feel like that is a very relatable quote. To begin, I think that he saying (from the context around it) is that he is clear and sweet, but at the same time he is not. He’s heard what the people have been saying about the beginning and the end, but he talks nothing of it. He is content because he sees, dances, and sings. 

I had a question as to who he was talking to in this text, but I think that he was talking to everyone or talking for everyone. If you look on line 82 he says:  I believe in you MY SOUL…”  

Lastly, in section 15 this is the section where he talks of all different walks of life, but yet they are all doing the same thing; living their life.


  1. I think the comment you are referring to about the schools being in abeyance he is more referring to his upbringing and education being worthwhile for what they were but not really of use to him at the time, just kind of in a state disuse. As for the comments about hints about old men and women. With the lines about leaves of grass I think he is making light of the cyclical nature of life. People in death become one with the earth and the grass and he is saying that the grass gives hints to the nature of those who have passed and those who are born of it. I don't know for sure but that is what I get from it. Being a transcendentalist, Whitman believed that the soul was immortal and continued to develop, a concept support by the grass passages. As for the helping in the barn, I think that is one of the few literal passages in the poem. He is saying he is helping out on a farm, many of which store bails of hay in the their barns after the growing season and after harvest. He is just helping the farmer out, he came in riding on top of the load, presumably after it had just been harvested which explains the mix of green and brown in the bails.

  2. For you to be a science guy you sure do know how to analyze! But I do agree with you and especially since after the class discussion, understanding that Whitman wasn't exactly referencing himself throughout the poem, but talking about everyone.