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Walt Whitman and the Theme of War in His Poems Essay

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Updated: Nov 30th, 2021

Introduction

Poetry is the highest spiritual achievement of people in the world, as through the poetry people transfer their feelings and emotions, their inner world, and they also try to hand down the information which is of the main consideration for them at the moment. Poetry may be viewed the mirror of people’s soul, and in most cases poets try to open people’s eyes on the problem, which must be considered, on the questions, which are crucial. Two poems of Walt Whitman are going to be compared and contrasted, “Beat! Beat! Drums!” and “Spirit whose work is done”, the differences and similarities are going to be pointed out and analyzed from the point of view of their structure, style of writing and main themes.

The analysis of poems’ structures

Starting with the structure and the main feature of presentation, the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” is considered to be more rhythmical thanks to alliteration. “Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!” (Whitman, “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, par.1) is the line, which starts every stanza in the poem. The alliteration adds to the whole effect which is provided from the main theme of the poem, war. The poem “Spirit whose work is done” is less rhythmical, but it is easily read thanks to the repetition of the word “spirit” (Whitman, “Spirit whose work is done”, par.1), which not only opens the poem, but is present almost at every line, which gives the impression that by this word the author wants to tell something more, than he does in reality.

War and spirit as the main themes of Whitman’s poems

Having read these both poems, the impression is provided that they add each other. Reading about drums in “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, it is understood that the main theme of the poem is war, as drums and bugles have always been associated with war events. Furthermore, “Spirit whose work is done” dwells upon the spirit of a person, who as if struggles to cope with numerous tasks, where war is on the first consideration.

Whitman and his other works with the reference to war and spirit themes

Spirit of gloomiest fears and doubts, (yet onward ever unfaltering pressing;) Spirit of many a solemn day, and many a savage scene! Electric spirit! (Whitman, “Spirit whose work is done”, line 3)

The spirit is in doubts, but still the obligation, which must be provided, will be done, as to protect the native land is important. The same symbols of drums, which are present in the poem, show the reader that the war spirit is discussed, which wants to fight, but some doubts limit it. Taking other poems of Walt Whitman, it should be mentioned that the theme of spirit bothers him greatly. Analyzing his poem “Song of myself”, the author depicts the spirit in some other way, but still the spiritual theme is introduced, “And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own” (Whitman, “Song of myself”, 30). Moreover, the theme of war and battles is introduced, “I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won” (Whitman, “Song of myself”, 30). Moreover, the spirit is closely connected with the theme of people’s relations, which are perfectly introduced in the poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (Whitman 21).

Conclusion

In conclusion, Walt Whitman is the poet, who in his poems showed the field of his interests. War and the spirit of war were one of the main his interests, which were depicted in his poems. Providing the themes of war and people’s spirit, the writer tried to examine people’s souls and aims in their lives, to understand people’s relations through space and time.

Works Cited

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, [c1900]; Bartleby.com, 1999.

Whitman, Walt. “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” In Nina Baym (Ed.), The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, [c1900]; Bartleby.com, 1999.

Whitman, Walt. “The song of myself.” In Nina Baym (Ed.), The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Walt Whitman and the Theme of War in His Poems." November 30, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/walt-whitman-and-the-theme-of-war-in-his-poems/.

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