Walt Whitman: The American Poet Essay

1556 words - 6 pages

Walt Whitman was arguable one of the most influential poets during the Civil War era. Though never directly involved in war, Whitman was able to talk about the war in a more insightful way than many poets at the time could. Whitman was most active in writing during the times before and after the war, choosing to dedicate himself to helping wounded soldiers during the war instead. Walt Whitman’s poetry reflects the progression of his philosophy of America: his initial view of America was uplifting, represented in his Pre-Civil war poems and while the Civil War poetry presents the degradation of American society, Whitman’s final poetry returns to a realistic, optimistic view for America.
As Whitman, the specific individual, melts away into the abstract, “Song of Myself” explores the possibilities for communion between individuals. Whitman addresses the reader in a particularly direct manner. He integrates his reader into the poem, and is freed of the constraints of poetic principle and social etiquette. The poem presents entire body lounging on the ground, leaning and idling. Whitman deliberately conflates natural world and poetical world. “Song of Myself” goes beyond the boundaries of Transcendentalism in the relationship of the physical and spiritual, individual and universal. The self that Whitman cheerily sings and celebrates substantiates a ‘uniform hieroglyphic’: suggestive, multiform, and awash with inconsistency. “It is as much a physical presence as a projected spiritual possibility” (Jason 2). Even as it blatantly and fervently expresses Whitman’s faith in evolution (and therefore in the necessary indivisibility of self-reliance), “Song of Myself” also conveys a separation with the “self,” the poet himself, and the country, both socially and politically. It offers a Transcendentalist solution to the disaster of union that would lead to a Civil War merely BLANK YEARS LATER. Whitman suggests that to truly experience the world, one must be fully in it and of it, yet unattached enough from it to have some perspective, and invisible enough not to hinder it excessively. This paradoxical set of conditions describes the poetic standpoint Whitman undertakes.
Written in ???, “Song of the Open Road” is iconic, for it addresses American mobility, agitation, and a love of freedom and open spaces. The poem commences with the first-person narrator setting out on a “long brown path.” The journeyman is “afoot and light-hearted,” for he is through with the monotony, routines, customs, and safe behaviors of his previous life, “done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms.” He relinquishes a life dedicated to the conventional quest of materialistic success: “henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune” (Whitman). The first person narrator dominates the poem, and connects its subjects and arguments. The role of this dramatic personality and the ideology it has to offer are undividable, for the...

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