Religion in Walt Whitman's Literature
"Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be ceremonious?……I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones." (pg 40)Nature and all of her wondrous facets, especially the human body, was Whitman's religion. Walt Whitman was indeed an intensely spiritual man in his own unconventional way. His epic classic "Song of Myself" demonstrates these attitudes of his, and in his view how the proverbial "poet" of his America should believe. Humanity yearns for spiritual fulfillment and Whitman believed that everything around us and even ourselves were walking testaments to what true ethereal life is.
One of the reasons that Walt Whitman was so popular, was his lax treatment of such taboo subjects as abolition and sexuality. This was especially true considering the prudish eyes of the Victorian society he was living in. Some of Whitman's verses are just oozing with sexually explicit pulp and innuendoes. How better can you venerate life like he calls the "poet" to do then by celebrating what we really are and where we come from. "I am the poet of the Body and I am poet of the soul" (pg. 41). Whitman expresses this beauty of the being graphically, but honestly to not disgrace it. The Victorian society in which he lived is not much unlike ours today where still some natural events are shunned as though they don't exist. Whitman hid some of these very vivid descriptions in the innuendoes of
other things that he was describing. Such as when he is talking about nature he implies, " My lovers suffocate me, Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin, coming naked to me at night." (pg. 67)
The body was not Whitman's only focus of honor in nature. He felt that everything in nature had to be appreciated. All of these commemorations quenched his spiritual thirst. You can feel the poet's soul literally set ablaze as he catalogues his mother earth.
"Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth, Earth of the slumbering and liquid tress, earth of the departed sunset-
earth of the mountainous misty-topt, earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue…" (pg. 42)
Whitman celebrates his love for the earth as one who has a conventional religion celebrates their love for what they believe in. All aspects are sacred of mother earth in the eyes of the poet, as are all facets of belief in the heart of a conventional religious person. Whitman express how great this love is that he feels for his planet by expressing himself unworthy of such greatness. " Prodigal, you have given me love- therefore I to you give love, O unspeakable passionate love." (pg. 42)
Whitman blatantly expresses himself almost to the point of being stale on how much the earth means to him. Looking past the
almost cornieness of this statement, some very powerful messages can be derived from it. Mother earth to the poet, is loved more then words
themselves can even express. This is such a powerful statement...