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A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim and I Hear America Singing
America the great, land of freedom, home of the brave--each of these phrases has been used to describe the United States of America. Walt Whitman was a man who lived through many tough times in this country, but who would prosper as a poet. He was personally affected by all of the death and destruction that he witnessed during the Civil War. "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" and "I Hear America Singing" have some fascinating similarities but include many differences. Although both poems were written by the same man, he seemed to see America in a different light when writing each poem. Each piece uses different tones and images, but they are tied together by the style of writing and use of America as a main subject. In "I Hear America Singing" and "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim," Whitman uses differing tones, images, styles of writing, and even different themes to show the splendors and downfalls that America can bring.
"I Hear America Singing" and "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" have two very different tones about the same subject. "I Hear America Singing," this poem has a very cheerful, happy, and robust tone which is evident even in the title. Whitman describes many different types of people singing "their strong melodious songs." The different trade each person has represents different ethnic backgrounds in the people of America. Whitman writes this poem to show how wonderful America is and how much he loves living here. "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" has a much different tone. During the civil war, Whitman's brother was wounded while fighting. His experiences while working in hospitals full of wounded and dying people inspired him to write such a dreary poem. Whitman's tone throughout the whole poem is solemn and dreadful. Describing three dead soldiers, Whitman seems to write how cruel and unjust people have been in killing the young, old, and even what he sees as "the face of the Christ himself." In each poem, Whitman uses opposite tones to describe America at different times and in different ways.
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Within these two poems, Whitman does use different tones but he maintains a similar style of writing. In almost all of the poems that Whitman writes he uses free verse. This means that he writes without having any rhyme scheme. Ordinary words that ordinary people can understand are used in both poems. Whitman did not capitalize random words for stress or use many hyphens to emphasize pauses in either poem. Imagery is also used differently in each poem. In "I Hear America Singing," you can see the people "singing with open mouths." Contrastingly, in "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" he uses the title as a source of seeing the daybreak as gray and dim instead of clear and beautiful. The use of free verse and simple wording make both of these poems alike, but the opposing images he creates set a much more somber mood in "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim."
"A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" contains a somewhat spiritual and patriotic theme. As Whitman uncovers the blankets of each soldier, he sees a young man, an old man, and a body he sees as Christ. This sight of Christ being dead arouses the thought of the sacrifice that Christ made for all of mankind. A spiritual theme is not seen in "I Heard America Singing." Instead, a theme of the American dream--living happily, in peace, and prospering at whatever one does is evident. "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" also contains a somewhat patriotic theme. The setting is the civil war and three men have died for their country. If so many men, women, and even children had not sacrificed their lives, the American dream would not be at all possible. In choosing the two different themes for each poem, Whitman expressed two contrasting views of the United States of America that he had at different times.
"A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" and "I Hear America Singing" have different tones, themes, and images but concentrate on one main subject--America. Whitman wrote using the same style of writing, free verse, and included some of the same themes in both poems. However, these two poems are surprisingly different in that Whitman used opposite tones and themes toward the subject of America. "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" and "I Hear America Singing" are two unlike poems that have many of the same aspects of writing that are all Walt Whitman.