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Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore” Essay


By blue Ontario’s shore is one of the 1856 poems composed by Walt Whitman, who is considered as the father of American poetry, that are full of drama. The speaker of the poem approaches greater rhetorical heights in defining true American poetry thus it takes a shape of a dramatic monologue.

The poem narrates the encounter of the speaker with a phantom on the shores of Lake Ontario who demands that; “Chant me the poem… that comes from the soul of America, /chant me the carol of victory” (Whitman par. 1).

There are also lots of rhetorical set pieces that can be compared to contemporaries like Lincoln and popular speeches of abolitionists in America. The writer explores his place in an expanded idea of American tradition that goes beyond politics and captures American intellectuals who stir battle of wits in their writing.

The poem therefore fuses poetry with rhetoric and this makes its uniquely interesting and the writer beckons his followers to buy his writing style; creative and pure.

Whitman’s narrator takes the route of other scholars in placing American poetry alongside British and classical writings.

However Whitman trends carefully in defining a poet as seen in section ten of the poem where he defines American poet thus; “Of these States the poet is the equable man” (Whitman par.10) and the poem goes on to assert that a poet is an independent element who acts with a lot of freedom and that;

“Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place is bad,/ He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion,/ neither more nor less, / He is the arbiter of the diverse, he is the key” (Whitman par.10).

The poet is therefore a product of democracy he creates and vise versa thus America has a guiding principles that shapes its democracy and poetry as an art. In this macrocosmic reduction therefore American poetry is depicted as cognizant of the democracy of the state where everything is possible as far as everyone has the drive and the personal qualities to make it happen.

Further in what can be said to be an inductive development of the American identity and function, the poem states that this democratic America is, “…only you and me” (Whitman par.17).

The poem therefore prescribes that for a new fresh American poetry, which would rank with the world literature, the poet’s vision should be an endless quest for democracy. This search is a test to be undertaken not by larger social movements but by an individual poet.

In defining the American poetry the twentieth section interrogates the prospective American bard and it starts the lesson thus; “Not to call even those lofty bards here by Ontario’s shores, / Have I sung so capricious and loud my savage song, / Bards for my own land only I invoke” (Whitman par. 20).

In this poem, Whitman is concerned with individual poet’s ability to compete in the world arena and poets are charged with the task of creating from nothing, not from the works of other poets, “Not for the bards of the past, not to invoke them have I launch’d…” (Whitman par. 20). The American poetry is therefore expected to be very original so that no one will dare challenge, “Have you not imported this or the spirit of it in some ship?” (Whitman par.12).

One way of creating such an original poetry worth its uniqueness as American is by ensuring that new grounds are established in epic by taking the value of individual contribution and the “…days of the present” (Whitman par. 8) instead of investing too much pride in the past. This way, the poem suggests that, the poet will be able to define American poetry which would qualify to sell in the world market of literature.

Works Cited

Whitman, Walt. “By Blue Ontario’s Shore.” Leaves of Grass and Other Writings Walt Whitman. Ed. Michael Moon. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, April 4). Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-american-poetry-in-blue-ontarios-shore/

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"Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”." IvyPanda, 4 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/defining-american-poetry-in-blue-ontarios-shore/.

1. IvyPanda. "Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”." April 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-american-poetry-in-blue-ontarios-shore/.


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IvyPanda. "Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”." April 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-american-poetry-in-blue-ontarios-shore/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”." April 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/defining-american-poetry-in-blue-ontarios-shore/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Defining American Poetry In “Blue Ontario’s Shore”'. 4 April.

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