Visualizing Eternity in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself
Whitman's poem "Song of Myself #44" stands as a confession and testaments of not only who he is and what he is, but also as who we are, we being people in general. The poem is not about a self-idolizing author claiming to be the greatest being of all time. Instead it paints a picture for all mankind alike to relate to. It puts a mirror in front of the world and presents an angle of an image that, though familiar, we have never seen or realized before.
In the very beginning of the poem, Whitman addresses the world upon a pedestal, asking them to stand and explore with him the unknown. And what is unknown is eternity and the meaning of life. From this beginning there is a tone of a confession or a speech that is set out to reveal something new and something of importance. He "strips away" what is known, or rather, all the little things of life, that which really does not matter much, and tries to get to the bottom of it all. And what lies at the bottom is eternity. This is the unexplainable, the unattainable, but also the essential. Eternity cannot be captured by people, it "lies in bottomless reservoirs"(1136). It is a force that has been present for many years, and will continue forth for more than anyone will ever know. But it is through this force that people have grown and learned to exist.
The poem puts in writing the constantly moving force of life and time. We were born somewhere along the line of life and will die somewhere as well, but we still were present in the nurturing existence of time; everyone has his or her time, place, and moment of life. In line 1142, Whitman writes, in my opinion, a kind of commentary of society, that which perhaps is an assault against slavery and discrimination. Whitman writes that "I do not call one greater and one smaller,/That which fills its period and place is equal to any"(1142). He indicates that all people are equal; no one is better or worse than the other, as eternity and time, the ever-present force, makes us all equal. Whitman continues this idea in the following lines with "Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or my sister?"(1144). He is addressing his fellow man, whether man or woman, almost as if they are dead, having already lived their lives and now reflecting upon it, perhaps in some sort of afterlife. He sympathizes with those that suffer through the world under heavy, unnecessary grief and pain, like the scorn from others as well as the loss of loved ones, but he himself cannot share their pain, having never experienced these hardships.
Line 1148 presents an interesting perspective, that which I had not thought of before. At first glance it can sound like Whitman...