Walt Whitman Biography Essay

1917 words - 8 pages


Wonderful Causing Tears

The ability to pinpoint the birth or beginning of the poet lifestyle is rare. It is rare for the observer as it is for the writer. The Walt Whitman poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” is looked at by most as just that. It is a documentation, of sorts, of his own paradigm shift. The realities of the world have therein matured his conceptual frameworks. In line 147 we read “Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake.” This awakening is at the same time a death. The naiveté of the speaker (I will assume Whitman) is destroyed. Through his summer long observation, the truths of life are born, or at least reinforced, in him. The obvious elements are birth and death, which are both caused by another instance of the latter (death of the “she-bird”). Nature’s role is omnipresent. Not only in the sense of it giving a constant livable environment, but also almost deified in the personification of its will and actions. The birth of vision in the speaker is due not only to the observation of death, as that is just a single occurrence, but to the observation of the role of nature in all of its mysterious cycles.
Nature is not the sole source of dramatic symbolism in the piece. The actions of the characters themselves reflect the piece’s definite goals. Though these “characters” set the scene and take center stage at different points, it must be remembered that what occurs is removed from the reader by two filters. The first is the filter of interpretation by the boy who is witnessing the events, it is then filtered through the memory of the boy become both man and poet. The boy has thus created a profound story of want and injustice through translation of natural occurrence (sounds and sea), and the man-poet has created a path though which all could trace the progression of these messages into the poet’s insight. Due to this fact, the central character in this piece is the boy, foreshadowing what he is to become. Attention is not focused on the birds and sea themselves, but on the boy-man’s growing understanding brought on by them. They are then factors in the equation of nature and speaker.
The seemingly autobiographical nature of this piece instantly calls for observation. The speaker is an older Whitman, advanced and experienced. The poem is a remembrance of his childhood from afar. This gives Whitman the opportunity to distance himself from the time period and make further matured observation. As said before, the experience written of here is a major cause of his personal assent.
The structure of time changes throughout the piece, but is consistent. The first stanza of the poem is mostly in the present tense as the advanced Whitman is summarizing the events before he tells of them. Around line ten (still the first stanza) Whitman begins to go deeper into summarized explanation with a change to past tense. He here tells, quite literally, of the two birds’ effect on him as recognized by an older man, but originally seen...

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