Essay on Walt Whitman Song of Myself

1247 Words Feb 24th, 2012 5 Pages
January 20th, 2012
It’s Only Natural: Racial and Gender Equality in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” In the opening line of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” it becomes immediately evident that his song is not about himself, but about the entire human race: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, / for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”. His poem extols the mundane aspects of everyday life that a traditional poet of his day would not have considered worthy of poetic material. The meaning of his poem is best expressed in a quote from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
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Everyone must die eventually, and so the natural roots of democracy are therefore in mortality, whether due to natural causes or to the bloodshed of internecine warfare. While Whitman normally revels in this kind of symbolic indeterminacy, here it troubles him a bit. “I wish I could translate the hints,” he says, suggesting that the boundary between encompassing everything and saying nothing is easily crossed. The second episode is more optimistic. The famous “twenty-ninth bather” can be found in the eleventh section of the poem. In this section a woman watches twenty-eight young men bathing in the ocean. She fantasizes about joining them unseen, and describes their semi-nude bodies in some detail. The invisible twenty-ninth bather offers a model of being much like that of Emerson’s “transparent eyeball”: to truly experience the world one must be fully in it and of it, yet distinct enough from it to have some perspective, and invisible so as not to interfere with it unduly. This paradoxical set of conditions describes perfectly the poetic stance Whitman tries to assume. The lavish eroticism of this section reinforces this idea: sexual contact allows two people to become one yet not one—it offers a moment of transcendence. As the female spectator introduced in the beginning of the section fades away, and Whitman’s voice takes over, the eroticism becomes homoeroticism. Again this is not so much the expression of a

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