Walt Whitman: The American Poet Essay

Walt Whitman: The American Poet Essay

Length: 1559 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

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...

... middle of paper ...

...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.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Walt Whitman and the Civil War

- Walt Whitman is a famous poet in American history and the founder of free style of writing poem. He was well-known with his work of Leaves of Grass and Drum-Taps. Walt Whitman was inspired to write poems about Civil War and changed his style of writing after experiencing the horrible result of the war. Walt Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, on May 31, 1819. He is the second son of eight siblings in the family. In his early life, Whitman received a formal education until age of 11 because he needed to help his father to support the big family....   [tags: american history, poet, drum-taps]

Powerful Essays
966 words (2.8 pages)

The Life of Walt Whitman Essay

- The Life of Walt Whitman “Whitman seems to have had the theatrical flair of a con artist and the selfless dignity of a saint; the sensibility of an artist and the carefree spirit of a hobo; the blustery egotism of a braggart and the demure shyness of a shrinking violet.” (Holt Rine Hart and Winston 362). All these are statements make no sense at all but that was just how Whitman was. He wrote in ways you could never figure him out. He lived a life where he had to help his father support the family by getting a job instead of attending school....   [tags: American poet, journalist and essayist]

Powerful Essays
1234 words (3.5 pages)

Biography of Walt Whitman Essay example

- Thesis I. Walt Whitman is an American poet, journalist, and essayist whose Versace collection Leaves of Grass is a landmark in the history of American literature. Introduction II. He was born to a family that settled in North America in the first half of the 17th century. Also his family had owned a large tract of land. Therefore his family didn’t have it all they were not poor either. They were an average family. Body Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in West Hills Long Island N.Y... In 1823 they moved to Brooklyn....   [tags: poet, journalist, work, literature]

Powerful Essays
580 words (1.7 pages)

Walt Whitman as a Voice for the People Essay examples

- Walt Whitman as a Voice for the People "The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as much as he absorbs his country." This brilliant quote from Walt Whitman thus ends his preface to Leaves of Grass, and thereafter begins the poem "Song of Myself." To many, upon their first reading, this was a crude, shocking and distasteful piece of work. but to me...this was a celebration of life. And not just a celebration of his own life, but of every life, of the American life. Walt Whitman is the "voice of the people" and this I believe because, while he did write of things that were not seen as aesthetically beautiful by many...including homosexuality, loneliness, and death....   [tags: Walt Whitman Essays]

Powerful Essays
1192 words (3.4 pages)

Essay about Walt Whitman's Influence on Germany

- Walt Whitman's Influence on Germany Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is considered to be one of the greatest American poets of the nineteenth century. While Edgar Allan Poe may have been more widely read, Whitman had more international writers actively respond to him and his poetry than any other American poet. A century after his death, writers around the world are still in dialogue with him, pondering the questions he posed, arguing with him and elaborating on his insights. People have been attracted to Whitman for numerous reasons....   [tags: Walt Whitman Germany Poetry Poets Essays]

Free Essays
5654 words (16.2 pages)

Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps Essay

- Walt Whitman's Drum-Taps - The Personal Record of Whitman’s Wartime Experiences Walt Whitman is one of America’s most popular and most influential poets. The first edition of Whitman’s well-known Leaves of Grass first appeared in July of the poet’s thirty-sixth year. A subsequent edition of Leaves of Grass (of which there were many) incorporated a collection of Whitman’s poems that had been offered readers in 1865. The sequence added for the 1867 edition was Drum-Taps, which poetically recounts the author’s experiences of the American Civil War....   [tags: Walt Whitman Drum-Taps Essays]

Free Essays
995 words (2.8 pages)

Walt Whitman: Democracy At Play Essay

- In 1855, Walt Whitman, an influential American poet published his first edition of his collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, in which a controversial piece was included, “I Sing the Body Electric.” Whitman wrote the poem during the 19th century and pre civil war, within a free verse genre. Harold Bloom, an American critique and professor at Yale University, mentions in his book, Bloom’s How to Write about Walt Whitman, that equality is one of the central standards of the American society and that throughout most of Whitman’s life, “America struggled to fulfill the promise of equality for all” (Bloom 107)....   [tags: Poetry]

Powerful Essays
2295 words (6.6 pages)

Walt Whitman and Hanshan Essay

- Poems by Walt Whitman and Hanshan feature strong enlightenment ideals and prevalent references to nature as a way to achieve these ideals. Though the two men lived in very different times, their works carry similar messages. Following the path to enlightenment generally refers to the Buddhist Eightfold Path, though it has been adapted over time to refer to the state of understanding a person reaches, both of oneself and his or her surroundings, as well as of that beyond what can be sensed. Relying solely on one’s talents and denying society and worldly possessions are typically seen as characteristics of an enlightened person, as seen in the writings of both Whitman and Hanshan....   [tags: enlightment ideals poetry]

Powerful Essays
531 words (1.5 pages)

A True Patriot: Walt Whitman Essay

- A True Patriot: Walt Whitman When one talks of great American Poets, if the person has any since of intelligence, then they can in now way fail to mention Walt Whitman. Whitman is unmistakingly a great American poet, So great, that Ralph Waldo Emerson said that he was an “American Shakespeare” (Tucker 247). While the debate still goes on about that comment, there is no debate about the greatness of Whitman. Walt Whitman was born in West Hills, NY on May 31, 1819 on Long Island. He was the second of nine children....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Powerful Essays
1071 words (3.1 pages)

Essay about walt whitman

- Walt Whitman Walt Whitman was a follower of the two Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. He believed in Emerson and Thoreau’s Trascendentalist beliefs. Whitman believed that individualism stems from listening to one’s inner voice and that one’s life is guided by one’s intuition. The Transcendentalist centered on the divinity of each individual; but this divinity could be self-discovered only if the person had the independence of mind to do so. Whitman lent himself to this concept of independence....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1371 words (3.9 pages)