Identifying the mystery of existence, Whitman writes "Song of Myself," section six to question the nature of the life of man. He alludes to and confronts past answers to this query by utilizing as his central image the leaves of grass. In the Christian tradition, the Bible utilizes this image of grass to describe the lives of men. Isaiah, a prophet of God cries out, "All men are like grass . . . and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, . . . but the word of the Lord stands forever" (Isaiah 40:6-8). The scriptural image of men as grass, "the handkerchief of the Lord," places man in relation to God and establishes the transient, finite nature of man. Whitman responds throughout this poem to the Biblical answer to the question of life. Emphasizing the cyclical process of nature, Whitman constructs his poem to insist that the life of man, as in nature, moves not with linear progression, but rather in a cyclical succession. Birth and death, Whitman asserts, serve not as bookends to a concise life span, but rather as connections in a larger continuum of existence.
Whitman utilizes an imagist technique relating a series of associated images through a central connection. Whitman first presents the reader with the image of a small child offering up grass with the question, "What is the grass." In light of the scriptural connection Whitman provides, this query "What is the grass" from the lips of a child presents the larger question of what is man. Whitman chooses not to answer this question directly, but rather to present possibilities and proffer the question back to the reader, stating "How could I answer the chil...
... middle of paper ...
...ot ceased to exist but rather now continue their existence "alive and well" in the ambiguous "somewhere." Whitman will not accept the Biblical understanding of death as a passage to either heaven or hell. He claims instead that "to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier." This fortuitous death he would apply to every man, not reserving destruction for any man. Death, if it truly exists, for Whitman, leads only "forward to life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it." Stating "All goes onward and outward . . and nothing collapses," Whitman affirms the view of man's earthly life as a succession rather than a progression and claims for man a part in a larger cyclical continuum of existence.
Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Ed, Paul Lauter. Boston,NewYork: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- There are many "popular" topics used frequently by authors. Love, religion, and war are some favorites. Two other such topics we typically read about are nature and death. The two can be discussed separately or they can be related to each other. Walt Whitman, a lover of nature, tackled these subjects in "Song of Myself" from Leaves of Grass. Another author who does the same is William Cullen Bryant. Though two very different writers with different styles, they share some of the same ideas. "Song of Myself" is a celebration of life and God.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
599 words (1.7 pages)
- Walt Whitman is considered the foremost poet of American democracy of his time. Not only did he fully embrace it, but he believed that American democracy was more than a political system, but a way of life (Casale 48). Many of his personal experiences influenced his deep democratic point of view (48). As a volunteer at an army hospital during the American Civil War, he saw many die and became increasingly grateful for the opportunities provided by the American government (Mirsky). Later, as he was residing in New York City, Whitman witnessed America face urbanization.... [tags: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself]
1276 words (3.6 pages)
- In his first anthology of poems entitled “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman reveals some of his views on democracy through the use of symbolism and free verse poetry. His use of symbolism and free verse poetry creates indeterminacy, giving the reader hints rather than answers about the nature of the poem. In the sixth part of “Song of Myself”, a child asks the narrator of the poem, “What is the grass?” (Whitman). Instead of simply giving an answer, the narrator cannot make up his mind, and stumbles on how to explain the grass to the child.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
1357 words (3.9 pages)
- The Heath Anthology of American Literature repeatedly refers to Walt Whitman and his poetry in terms of being American, yet as I read Song of Myself, my thoughts are continually drawn to the philosophies and religions of the Far East. Like the Tao Te Ching ideas are expressed in enigmatic verse and each stanza is a Zen koan waiting to be meditated on and puzzled out. Even Emerson called Whitman's poetry "a remarkable mixture of the Bhagvat Gita and the New York Herald" ("The Whitman Project").... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
1309 words (3.7 pages)
- An Analysis of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself `Whitman was always asking questions. He believed that life's goal or cause was a mystery. He was surrounded by people who were drawing distinct lines between right and wrong, rejecting the things in the universe that were not a direct ticket to holiness. Whitman, unlike his contemporaries, embraced the beauty of everything. His mystical perception of the world ushered in the idea that God was to be found in every thing, and that He could never be fully understood.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
774 words (2.2 pages)
- Divinity, Sexuality and the Self in Whitman’s Song of Myself Through his poetry, Whitman's "Song of Myself" makes the soul sensual and makes divine the flesh. In Whitman's time, the dichotomy between the soul and the body had been clearly defined by centuries of Western philosophy and theology. Today, the goodness of the soul and the badness of the flesh still remain a significant notion in contemporary thought. Even Whitman's literary predecessor, Emerson, chose to distinctly differentiate the soul from all nature.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
1237 words (3.5 pages)
- An Annotation of Section 24 of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" is a vision of the American spirit, a vision of Whitman himself. It is his cry for democracy, giving each of us a voice through his poetry. Each of us has a voice and desires, and this is Whitman's representation of our voices, the voice of America. America, the great melting pot, was founded for freedom and democracy, and this poem is his way of re-instilling these lost American ideals. In this passage from "Song of Myself" Whitman speaks through his fellow man and speaks for his fellow man when his voice is not socially acceptable to be heard.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
1355 words (3.9 pages)
- Forged in the fire of revolution and defined by manifest destiny, America has always been the land of the individual. Although the American dream has not always been consistent, (married with 2.5 kids, 2 cars, a dog and a satisfying job), the spirit of innovation, individuality and progress remains unchanged. The father of free verse, and perhaps the American perspective of poetry, Walt Whitman embodies these values in his life and work. First published in 1855 in Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself" is a vision of a symbolic "I" enraptured by the senses, vicariously embracing all people and places from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
1521 words (4.3 pages)
- The Meaning of Life in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself Our culture seems to be fascinated by the unknown and specifically that which pertains to things of an eternal nature such as Heaven, angels, God and the meaning of forever. These things cause us to think about what we can't see and even allow us to engage ourselves in questioning the meaning behind our existence and what our purpose is here on earth. Some of these may be humorous and take on the realities of human nature while others stir something inside ourselves that cause us to take a deeper look at life.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
980 words (2.8 pages)
- The Cycle of Life in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself In stanza six of the poem "Song of Myself", by Walt Whitman, he poses the question "What is the grass?" I believe that grass is a metaphor for the cycle of life. Throughout the poem Whitman points out images that grass could represent. All of these images stem from the life and death that we come to expect in our lifetime. During your life you will experience death, it at times surrounds you, but if you look past the grief and look to the beauty you will see that it is a cycle that keeps our world in balance.... [tags: Song of Myself Essays]
798 words (2.3 pages)