Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is a very unique poem. Some say it is a kind of diary entry or detailed self-reflection and this makes it that unique. However, the poem is also special because it combines two types of art: literature and music.
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“Song of Myself” is a musical artwork since in this poem it is difficult to see the line between music and poetry. This peculiarity makes the poem that unique and that personal. It is possible to state that the poem is unique self-reflection which reveals the poet’s thoughts just as they appear in his head.
This is why Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is considered to be one of the greatest works of American poetry, since it is not simply read but felt.
Cowley points out that the structure of “Song of Myself” should not be regarded as logical since it is not a mere “geometrical figure but a musical progression” (xvi).
It is very tempting to analyze the poem in terms of psychology or logic considering topics discussed in the poem, but it is much more interesting to reveal its uniqueness in terms of the specific structure which makes the poem pertain to two different types of art.
The tone, rhythm, tempo of the poem change when themes change. The poem has been called a “rhapsody or tone poem” (Cowley xvi). It is very melodic. This work is also characterized by unity (which is a characteristic feature of musical works) since all lines are in the right place revealing certain idea.
It is always amazing how people can combine different types of art since it is similar to combining different senses. Some say they can “see music” or they can associate colors with some sounds. Whitman made something more unique.
He made his thoughts and his very soul sound as a beautiful melody. Of course, there are many poems which become songs later on. However, there is no need to create music to sing “Song of Myself” since it is already a melody addressed to people’s hearts.
Most importantly, this peculiarity of the poem makes it even more personal. Many scholars suggest that the poem is self-reflection since Whitman reveals his thoughts, ideas and longings, and stipulates his position towards various issues.
However, Whitman goes further. He does not simply enumerate his ideas, he makes them sound in a way they sound in his head. Admittedly, music is inevitable part of human life. People often whistle, murmur or even loudly sing various melodies. It is but natural that music is not on the surface of human consciousness.
This level (surface) is for words, but music reaches deeper levels of human mind. Therefore, Whitman’s poem is even more personal than a diary. It is like a reflection of his consciousness.
On balance, it is possible to point out that Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is one of the most unique poems. It is usually considered in terms of its content, exact wording and themes discussed. However, it is much more important to consider it in terms of its specific structure.
The poem combines two types of art, music and poetry. Therefore, in the first place Whitman proves that words can become a melody. More importantly, Whitman creates a poem which is extremely personal since it seems that the poet reveals his thoughts just as they appear in his head. The reader does not read the poem, but the reader rather listens to “Song of Myself”.
Cowley, Malcolm. Introduction. Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition. By Walt Whitman. New Haven: Penguin Classic, 1961. vii-xxxvii.