“Walt Whitman: Appreciation Of The Human Body Through Poetry”

1221 words - 5 pages

Angelica AtwoodD. SalterAP English 1129 March 2013"Walt Whitman: Appreciation of the Human Body Through Poetry"Leaves of Grass, a collection of poems written by Walt Whitman has received much praise and protest over the century. It is known for its vulgarity, bluntness, and beauty. Many of Whitman's poems were considered sexual or could have been interpreted as sexual. The intense sexuality in these words can and does show his true appreciation for the human body; male and female. It is shown fully in his poems and quotes.In 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass was self published. Many famous writers and poets of the time wrote of his poems calling them 'reckless', 'muck', and worse. Even still, Whitman fought back, writing in newspapers and writing letters. Whitman got as much protest as he got praise. Such praise came from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed" (1855, p.145). Emerson wrote Whitman a letter praising him for Leaves of Grass. "I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start" (Emerson, 1855).With praise came protest. Rufus Griswold wrote insultingly about Whitman. "for it is impossible to imagine how any man's fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love" (Griswold, 1855). Griswold, being a Christian, was very against what Whitman did and stood for.Henry David Thoreau also had a fancy for Whitman and Leaves of Grass. After receiving the second edition of Leaves of Grass from Whitman himself, Thoreau wrote a letter to Harrison Blake praising the book. "He does not celebrate love at all. It is as if the beasts spoke. I think that men have not been ashamed of themselves without reason" (Thoreau, 1856). Thoreau met Whitman on numerous occasions, having many conversations, he thought and spoke well of Whitman.Leaves of Grass is a collection of well over three-hundred poems written by Whitman over his lifetime. Many of which are sexual, could be considered sexual, or perhaps have underlying meanings. Whitman even has a section of the book called "Children of Adam" that is almost strictly about the human body. Poems such as "I Sing the Body Electric", "The City-Deadhouse", and "Who Learns My Lesson Complete" do talk much of men and women.Walt Whitman made it his life goal to appreciate the human body in any way. Being bisexual he could do that, loving both men and women. In the poem "I Sing the Body Electric", Whitman writes of both men and women:Have you ever loved the body of a woman?Have you ever loved the body of a man?Do you not see that these are exactly the same in all nations and times all overthe earth?If anything is sacred the human body is sacred,And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood...

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