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Walt Whitman: The American Poet Essay

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Walt Whitman was arguable one of the most influential poets during the Civil War era. Though never directly involved in war, Whitman was able to talk about the war in a more insightful way than many poets at the time could. Whitman was most active in writing during the times before and after the war, choosing to dedicate himself to helping wounded soldiers during the war instead. Walt Whitman’s poetry reflects the progression of his philosophy of America: his initial view of America was uplifting, represented in his Pre-Civil war poems and while the Civil War poetry presents the degradation of American society, Whitman’s final poetry returns to a realistic, optimistic view for America.
As Whitman, the specific individual, melts away into the abstract, “Song of Myself” explores the possibilities for communion between individuals. Whitman addresses the reader in a particularly direct manner. He integrates his reader into the poem, and is freed of the constraints of poetic principle and social etiquette. The poem presents entire body lounging on the ground, leaning and idling. Whitman deliberately conflates natural world and poetical world. “Song of Myself” goes beyond the boundaries of Transcendentalism in the relationship of the physical and spiritual, individual and universal. The self that Whitman cheerily sings and celebrates substantiates a ‘uniform hieroglyphic’: suggestive, multiform, and awash with inconsistency. “It is as much a physical presence as a projected spiritual possibility” (Jason 2). Even as it blatantly and fervently expresses Whitman’s faith in evolution (and therefore in the necessary indivisibility of self-reliance), “Song of Myself” also conveys a separation with the “self,” the poet himself, and the co...


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...macy and public response are at odds here. In fact, the poem ends with a note of sad and quiet desperation, a true confession of love: "But I with mournful tread, / Walk the deck my Captain lies, / Fallen cold and dead" (Terrinoni).



Works Cited

Davis, Robert L. "Whitman's Tympanum: A Reading of Drum-Taps." American Transcendental Quarterly 6.3 (1992): 163-75. University of Rhode Island, 01 Mar. 1990. Web.
Jason, Philip K., Tracy Irons-Georges, and Donald D. Cummings. Masterplots II: Poetry Series - Rev. Ed. Pasadena CA: Salem, 2002. Print.
Jason, Philip K., Tracy Irons-Georges, and Robert A. Morace. Masterplots II: Poetry Series - Rev. Ed. Pasadena CA: Salem, 2002. Print.
Terrinoni, Enrico. "Literary Contexts in Poetry: Walt Whitman's 'Oh Captain! My Captain!'" Understanding Literature -- Literary Contexts in Poetry & Short Stories. Great Neck, 2007. Print.


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