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Defining The Soul In Walt Whitman's Song Of Myself

780 words - 3 pages

Every sentence in Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" tends to either repeat or contradict. He even says of himself, "I contradict myself" (Lauter, p. 2793). This can make Whitman's poetry a little confusing to some. In his many stanzas, definition of the soul is ambiguous and somewhat contradictory.

Whitman says, "Clear and sweet is my soul....and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul" (Lauter, p. 2745). What I believe Whitman is saying here is that his soul and everything else that is not his soul, including the souls of others, is clear and sweet. He goes on to say in the lines following, "Lacks one lacks both..." (Lauter, p. 2745). In other words, a soul cannot be clear if it is not sweet and a soul cannot be sweet if it is not clear. If it does not have one of the qualities, then it cannot have the other. By his words, a soul is not a soul unless it has both qualities: clear and sweet.

He says many lines down, "I believe in you my soul....the other I must not abase itself to you, And you must not be abased to the other" (Latuer, p. 2746). Whitman believes that nothing must be lower than his soul. His soul has the highest ranking amongst all other parts of himself, including his heart, mind and body. This line is an example of his use of contradiction because he also says that his soul cannot exceed the other parts of himself.

Whitman writes that he, as a poet, represents the body and that he is "the poet of the soul" (Lauter, p.2759). In other words, his poetry represents the body and the soul, but since we are more interested in the soul, we will focus on that. Remember, also, Whitman's poetry is often contradictory. He says in the following lines, "The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me" (Lauter, p. 2759). I believe what Whitman is saying here is that his soul includes both pleasure and pain. But, in the very next line he says that he...

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