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Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” can be discussed as the extended poetic meditation and reflection in relation to the role of an individual in the world and the relations of humans with nature. “Song of Myself” consists of fifty-two sections which are combined with the help of the main theme and style. In spite of the fact that Whitman discusses a lot of important questions in his poem, all the presented issues are closely associated with the theme of the human’s unique connection with nature as the main force in the world. The author’s wisdom and devotion to each element of nature despite its size and significance are also reflected in Section 31 of “Song of Myself”. Whitman’s poetry unites the principles of Romanticism, Realism, and Transcendentalism, and characteristic features of these movements can be observed with references to Whitman’s “Song of Myself”. The role of nature in the people’s lives and the role of an individual in the natural world is one of the main themes in Whitman’s poetry that is why Section 31 of “Song of Myself” is connected in its theme and style not only with the other parts of the poem but also with the other poet’s works which are similar regarding the Transcendental ideas.
The main idea and theme of Section 31 are represented in the first line of the first stanza. Thus, Whitman states, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars” (Whitman 1). This statement is the presentation of the poet’s idea that the smallest elements of nature can have enormous effects on the whole life of the world and on an individual. Whitman focuses on ‘a leaf of grass’ as the symbolic reflection of his opinion, and this symbol appears in the other parts of “Song of Myself” as well as the complete work which includes the discussed poem is also named Leaves of Grass. The image of grass as the symbol of growth can be observed in several parts of “Song of Myself”, and these references help unite the large work into a single piece connected by the single idea. Furthermore, it is also important to focus on a leaf of grass’ as the symbolic representation of a man in the world. Thus, one leaf of grass can affect the whole natural development when one person is also important for the progress of the whole society (Bohan 14-18). That is why the symbol of ‘a leaf of grass’ in relation to the main theme of the work can be discussed from many perspectives.
The main idea of this poem’s part is further discussed in the next lines. The author concentrates more on the unique role of each smallest element in the natural world, “the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, / And the tree-toad is a chef-d’œuvre for the highest, / And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven” (Whitman 2-4). Moreover, Whitman pays attention to the fact that there are no products of machinery that can be compared with the pieces of nature. Whitman draws the audience’s attention to the lines “And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery, / And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue, / And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels” (Whitman 5-7). Thus, objects made by a human cannot be compared with the miracles of nature.
The closeness of the author to nature and his distance from social life is emphasized in the third stanza of the part where all the lines begin with the phrase ‘in vain’. Whitman uses the simple style, free verse, repetitions, and parallel constructions in order to present the idea easily but to make accents on the important parts. The repetitions provide the effect of listing which is important for the author to reflect the increase of importance in relation to the aspects discussed in the poem.
Similar ideas are also reflected in such works of Whitman as “Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun” and in “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”. Whitman appeals to the forces of Nature in “Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun”, focusing on these forces as the source of relief for the poet. In “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”, the author also accentuates the connection with nature, and the character compares himself with a bird. The connection is very strong, and Whitman uses the idea of brotherhood to explain these unique ties (Bloom 112-120). “Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun” is similar to section 31 of “Song of Myself” regarding the stylistic peculiarities because of many repetitions and parallel constructions.
Walt Whitman focuses on the role of nature in many of his works, and “Song of Myself” is a vivid example of the author’s considerations on the problem presented in the perfect poetic form. In spite of the simple style and language, the poem effectively reflects the author’s philosophical spirit and ideas.
Bloom, Harold. Walt Whitman. USA: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
Bohan, Ruth. Looking Into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850 – 1920. USA: Penn State Press, 2006. Print.
Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself. n.d. Web.