Whitman's Music as a Means of Expression Essay

Whitman's Music as a Means of Expression Essay

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Whitman's Music as a Means of Expression


In his verses, Walt Whitman eradicates divisions of individual entities while simultaneously celebrating their unique characteristics. All components of the universe are united in a metaphysical intercourse, and yet, are assigned very distinct qualities so as to keep their identities intact. Often times, Whitman demonstrates these conceptions through elements of song. “Walt Whitman caroled throughout his verse. For the Bard of Democracy, as America came to call our great poet, music was a central metaphor in his life and work, both as a mindset and as a practical reality.” (Hampson) His musical poetry lyrically encompasses themes of social equality. Whitman enterprises a communion of persons while using the singer as a poet, lover, typical citizen, bard and a celebrator of the self to express such notions. Whitman discovers music in the daily lives of ordinary individuals and expresses it within his poetry. Especially in respect to the poems “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “I Hear America Singing,” Walt Whitman incorporates music as a vehicle to illustrate democratization.

Whitman was a self educated New Yorker who began his literary career by satiating himself with classical reading and appreciating nature. After leaving school, Whitman held a great variety of jobs including a printers apprentice and editing several periodicals. His first independent publication was Leaves of Grass; a compilation of various untitled poems. Initially, he was met with limited success or recognition (with the exception of a satisfied Ralph Waldo Emerson). His second edition was far more warmly welcomed. During the Civil War, Whitman offered his services to care for soldiers ...


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... a democratic understanding of society. Whitman deems all persons equally and interprets their existence as pieces of music. In instances where the average individual would find no value, Whitman depicts unexplored realms of appreciation. All members of society are conveyed as agents of music. Their role’s are regarded as beautiful contributions to society by defining them with instrumental undertones. Whitman’s verses are written with such musical style and context, that they are often times the inspiration for musical compositions (including the likes of Vaughn Williams). In his pieces, Whitman honors the seemingly inferior facets of society, discounting any hierarchy and rather, celebrating all members equally. To effectively portray Whitman’s democratic mentality, he delivers his message by expressing his subjects as instruments in a grand societal composition.

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