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. I think that section six of "Song of Myself" captures Whitman's quest for knowing, and his idea that our perceptions of what is, only scratch the surface.
How appropriate that he starts this section with a question posed by a child, "What is the grass?" Whitman wants to answer, but realizes that he can't. Nature provides so many opportunities for interpretation. It is, on one hand, the abstract "flag of [his] disposition", but in the next stanza, the more tangible "handkerchief of the Lord." Notice that he "guesses" each time what the grass might be. Whitman would never be so strict as to impose his ideas or beliefs on anyone, or to assume that he was any more right than the next person. In line 110, he says, "O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!" I love his tolerance, his ability to admit that everything is what we "perceive" it to be, in a world where everyone was bound by rules and laws.
Who and where is God in this poem? His first direct reference to God is in the fourth stanza when he suggests that the grass may be a handkerchief of the Lord. He says that it is "A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped, / Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?" The idea is that God specified that the grass be there, He "designed" its place. And as with any created thing, the mark of the creator is somewhere on the object, whether it be a distinct signature, or just that it falls into the style of the creator. I am reminded of Romans 1:20, which says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have...