Arguable one of greatest works by Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”, contains 52 sections. It was published in 1855 and later expanded under “Leaves of Grass” poetry collection. The first section of the poem, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself”, consists of 4 stanzas and 13 lines. The major theme in this section is “All humans are from nature, thus we shall all return to nature”. Walt Whitman discusses the fact that all of us will reunite back to where we came from. In “Song of Myself” Whitman believed that nature could not be owned and was more important any human.
Walt Whitman discusses the natural phenomena of life cycle in the poem. “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, –And what I assume you shall assume,” (lines 1-2). Whitman believed that nature was above all things. When this poem was written when America was changing as far as nature was concern. The United States was growing and nature was being bought. During this time, the reconstruction era took place till 1877. During this time many events happened that really changed our ideas about nature and how we are to respect it as humans. These events show how our ideas of nature changed during this time.
In 1867 Alaska was purchased from Russia for 7. 2 million dollars. We started to buy nature during this period. Whitman was very concerned that when was purchased, nature that it might lose its freeness. Also during this time in 1866, Tennessee became the first state to rejoin the union after the Civil War. Also in 1866 the Civil Rights Act passed though Congress was mainly intended to protect the civil rights of African-Americans, in the wake of the American Civil War. During this time the ideas of nature fundamentally changed our ideas towards it. All of these events helped steer the central thought behind the poem.
These events shaped Whitman’s attitude towards nature. These events I feel are what Whitman was challenging with this poem. The purchasing of Alaska really showed that man owned the land. “Song of Myself” is a celebration of nature and how we has humans should respect nature. Whitman loved everything imaginable about nature. He loved people, animals, and himself. Throughout this extensive poem, Whitman mentions “red” people (Indians), “negros,” butchers, women, the poor and the rich. He believed that all are good in some way or another and all people are equal.
He loved them all for their own special reason. He also loved animals. Stanza thirteen praises the beauty and worthiness of oxen, tortoises, and mockingbirds. He believed all living deserved his love. He believed that everyone should be respected equally. He thought during this time we were losing our respect for nature. The speaker welcomes the audience into the poem as he creates a sense of unity, supporting the theme “All humans are from nature, thus we shall all return to nature”. Moreover, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (line 3). This meaningful line creates empathy within the readers. The atom is the smallest unit that makes up everything in the universe. Walt Whitman suggests that everything in the world is made of up that small unit: human, animals, trees, mountains, oceans, and even the Earth itself. This signifies we all are made up of same thing, thus we are all same. “I loaf and invite my soul / I lean and loafe at my ease… observing a spear of summer grass. ” (lines 4-5), Walt Whitman creates an imagery of one observing the grass by physically being attach to it.
Whitman regarded everything as having great importance; for example, a single leaf of grass was as important to him as the heavenly motion of the stars. Whitman’s love of America was due to his panoramic view of the scenery and its diverse democratically inclined people “America, this great land is full of democracy and republicanism. ” He wanted to point out that America was so pretty and important that nature was to be kept in its raw form. Whitman elaborates that any person and any nature is in itself poet and poem. He thinks America is full of poets.
Whitman expresses himself and how he wants others to take notice and realize poetry is all around. A poet who seems to have influenced Whitman’s poet style is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman takes the instructions announced by Emerson and runs gallantly, with them making beautiful and insightful poetry. Walt Whitman and Ralph Emerson spoke out in an age where society was not ready for such dramatic writers. The world was seeing the changes take place around them but they were not seeing the bad things that happened because of these changes. Whitman uses several of Emerson’s topics and styles to be that good poet.
Moreover, animals are mentioned in Emerson’s and Whitman’s passages. “And instantly the mind inquires, whether these fishes under the bride, yonder oxen in the pasture, those dogs in the yard, are immutably fishes, oxen, and dogs, or only so appear to me, and perchance to themselves appear upright men; and whether I appears a man to all eyes. ” (Emerson ”The Poet. ”) Emerson mentions everything even the dogs and fish. He believes everything is important. Whitman also uses several references to animals; “where the bull advances to do his masculine work, and the stud to the mare, and the cock is treading the hen” (Whitman “Song of Myself. ) The animals work together just like a poet should work together with nature and his surroundings in order to be the best poet. He too realizes that animals are important and that poetry can be written about them. Whitman just expands on Emerson’s small references to animals and gives pages of descriptions of animals. Whit thinks that animals are better than humans because they are not like people and do not have the problems and characteristics of humans. Whitman is a man who truly reshaped literature. He learned from Emerson and drew from Emerson’s experiences.
Whitman realizes that everything is poetry. Perhaps Emerson’s plan was to become a Martha Stuart as he gives instructions on how to bake the perfect cake. Unless someone bakes it and uses all the right ingredients then the recipe goes all-wrong. When a poet does not touch in on all the surroundings to draw on composing a poem, the poem is all-wrong. Whitman is more of a free mind and wants others to like him. Emerson on the other hand does not care and only provides the framework while Whitman provides evidence. The two poets are truly an inspiration to all.
Aspiz, Harold. “So Long! Walt Whitman’s Poetry of Death. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 2004. eBook. Emerson, Ralph. ”The Poet. ” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. (Ed, Paul Lauter. ) Boston, NewYork: Hougton Miffin, 1998. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance. ” New York: Sully & Kleintech, 1883. Whitman, Walt, Howard Nelson. Earth, My Likeness: Nature Poetry of Walt Whitman, Walt. Berkeley California : North Atlantic Books, 2006. eBook. Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself. ” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. (Ed, Paul Lauter. ) Boston, NewYork: Hougton Miffin, 1998.