Response to Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ (2/10/10)

30 Sep

I’d first like to state that Whitman was the first poetry that I was semi-extensively exposed to, and I love it. I think his descriptions of the world around us are over-powering, yet simple in their text. He creates peaceful universes while in actuality not striving far from the real and everyday. My favorites were songs 20, 42, and 47; the first two for the existentialist properties and inquisitive quality and the latter being what I view as being derived from religious themes.

            In Song 47, Walt Whitman’s artistry is truly exposed, or at least his ability to recreate himself in grander positions than his own. I feel that he addresses his audience from the point of view of God, or possibly to a lesser extent, himself as God. It could be an earlier, not yet homage-like, tribute to modernism and the idea held within it of “the artist as God”. Either way, the poem deals with what seems like a spiritual transition into some common lives at the end. I feel as though he’s speaking as God in this, “The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon, The young mother and old mother comprehend me, The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are, They and all would resume what I have told them” (Whitman, 1053).

            I don’t think I would’ve generally thought of this personification unless Whitman had used the descriptive words and phrases that he did earlier in the poem: “Unrequited love”, “I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?”, “The farm boy plowing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice”, etc. The poem just seems to make sense more and connect to me better if it is from that divine perspective.

            However, Whitman could also be playing with notions of poetry itself, and maybe personifying himself as poetry, even. Some of those lines, for example: “And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her who privately stays with me in the open air.” There it seems like he’s exalting poetry and the appreciation thereof, but for some reason, I digress to the religious theme. Especially with the connection to “the nearest gnat is an explanation,” granting the idea that the narrator created life. Song 47 is difficult like many of the rest, but these are the themes I came up with.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses


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