Walt Whitman’s poetry uniqueness is expressed in both its form and content. It includes a powerful charge of historical optimism and is inspired by the heroic era in America’s destiny, the era of hopes and illusions born due to the collapse of slavery. The Song of my poem by Whitman is a centerpiece of the “Leaves of Grass” collection which became a kind of poetic manifesto of the author (Habich 5). It is an extensive yet plotless poem consisting of 52 domes and devoid of any dramatic conflicts. The poem flows as a lyrical monologue of the chain of memories and imaginary pictures of the lyrical character.
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It seems rather important and exciting to examine the mentioned poem from the historical approach as it presents a completely new character associated with the new epoch and the end of civil war. As it was stated above, the Song of Myself has no plot in the conventional sense, but it contains the lyric center: a movement of thought and feeling creates the lyrical character. In contrast to a romantic image that is usually lonely, rebellious, and challenging society, Whitman’s character is connected with humanity and, as a part of it, is associated with all that is happening in the world. This subsistence character is expressed in the following poetic formula: “Walt Whitman, a cosmos, of Manhattan the son” (Perkins 500).
Whitman’s lyrical character is unique in his ability to be implicated in the troubles and joys of others reincarnating in them. He is an old artilleryman and the lover who comes to his beloved one at the same time. The poetic “I” of Whitman constantly moves to other people and even natural phenomena philosophically synthesizing everything around him. Widely speaking, his “I” belongs to “all ages and lands” (Perkins 355). This “I” is all the people together and each person individually. Overall, the character of the poem is a typed image that encompasses all the features of the Americans of that time.
In the Song of Myself, the author looks at humans from a different angle than the poetry of that time reminding about the attitude of the ancient Greeks (Gale 17). Consequently, there was no coincidence that a puritan America did not accept the poet. Romanticism poets wrote about the human soul while Whitman valued the harmony of body and soul. Most clearly, this point is expressed in the Song of Myself that is unusually polyphonic; its sound might be compared to the choir sound.
However, the historical and also philosophical content is much wider. It might be recognized as a hymn to life on earth. Having passed all the diversity of life at the moment when a squatter is clearing land for houses, a teamster is chasing a herd, and a president is conducting a meeting, the poet glorifies a human life as the greatest miracle. Whitman’s democratic views that are sympathetic to people of all professions, religions, and skin colors should also be noted. The lyrical character has no obvious responses to the questions asked and he cannot always explain things occurring around, but he appreciates life in its diversity.
Therefore, through his poetic “I”, Whitman comprehends the nature, humanity, and universe. A characteristic feature of his lyrical perception is the tendency to integrate the world. In this connection, the Song of Myself poem calls for the resumption of the broken harmony to preserve the moral foundations of human existence.
Gale, Mary. A Study Guide for Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Habich, Robert D., and Robert C. Nowatzki. Romanticism and Transcendentalism, 1820-1865. New York, NY: Facts On File, 2010. Print.
Perkins, George. American Literature Since the Civil War – 2015 edition. McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 11/2008. VitalSource Bookshelf Online.