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WALT WHITMAN: analysis of a selected poems

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ALBA gutiérrez PRESA

on 9 April 2015

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Transcript of WALT WHITMAN: analysis of a selected poems

Selection of poems from
Leaves of Grass:

“The voice of the rain” (from “Sands at Seventy”)

“Poets to come!” (from “Inscriptions”)

“Facing West from California shores” (from “Children of Adam”)

“For you, o Democracy” (from “Calamus”)
INTRODUCTION
Poets to come!
Facing West from
California Shores
WALT WHITMAN:
analysis of a selected poems

The Voice of the Rain
In this poem, found in the poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855), the author describes a conversation he once had with the falling rain.

We see how the poet compares the life of the rain to that of a song (or poem).

He tells us how a song is born in the heat of the poet, and will some day return to the poet in the form of his reader's and listener's love.

-No specific meter rhyme scheme or form.

-Written in free verse.

-The first two lines hold the poet's question to the rain, and the remaining 6 lines make up the rain's response.
And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form'd, altogether changed, and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin,
and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck'd or unreck'd, duly with love returns.)
Summary
Analysis
-The comparison made
by Whitman between
poetry and the rain reflects
his transcendental beliefs.

-He chooses to relate his
poetry with the everlasting
cycles of nature, rather
than with something
man-made and modern.
Important lines
“...which strange to tell...”

“I am the poem of Earth”

“...altogether changed, and yet the same”

“(For song, issuing from its birth-place […]
duly with love returns)”



Published in the "Children of Adam"
(
Leaves of Grass
)


1867 ---> new edition (Facing West From
California's Shores)


Summary
Desire of adventure.

Shores of the Pacific Ocean, the California shores.

He believed in freedom.

He knew the sacrifices that American people must make to be free.

He describes the West ward expansion and discovery of America following the Civil War.

Relation with the world.

He mentions the Asian countries (historical sense to
this story).

Structure and formal aspects
11 lines. No general structure.

Commas: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8.

Semicolon: ends line 5.

Contractions: “wander’d” (line 9) and “pleas’d”
(line 10)

Parentheses and question marks: last two lines.

Analysis
"I, a child, very old“ : (oxymoron) comparison America /
all the world ---> desire of keep young.

“inquiring, tireless, and seeking".

"House of maternity" : comfortable known (Asia)

"the land of migrations" the speaker is one of many.

“The circle almost circled" (metaphor): an incomplete circle as the life's journey.
-Unsatisfied
-From Asia to California
-Going back to home. Life’s purpose.

"But where is what I started for so long ago?“
-last line of the poem
-Have a goal in mind when the journey started and in the course of
the day he lost his desire. Step back.

"And why is yet unfound?“:rhetorical question.
He continues to search for his purpose.

Analysis
"seeking", "child" and "wandering“: idea of expansion and progress.

"the house of maternity": a recent travel.

"very old", "long ago" and "West“:contrary sense
to create a dichotomy.

Feeling of instability due to the point of rest but
not of a finish.

Repetition ("unfound" (2, 12) and "wander'd" (9)

Anaphora ("from" (6-8) )

Facing west from California's shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander'd since, round the earth having wander'd,
Now I face home again, very pleas'd and joyous,
(But where is what I started for so long ago? And why is it yet unfound?
Relevance between poem and author
Romantic style of writing.

Never-ending, soul-searching and personality of Whitman.

Constant research inner people to find God, Heaven, and Salvation.

"Facing west, from California's shores“: looking for the bravery to recognize his homosexuality.

Conclusion
For you, O Democracy
Summary

Whitman wants to create a Democratic America with “the life-long love of comrades”.

Comrades ---> “the most splendid race”

He connects different parts of America
---> America stretches out in an expansive way
--->human cities: make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks”.

This poetry, “trill these songs”, in order to praise the principles of Democracy.

Analysis
Poem marked by anaphora in every verse.

Link between nature and democracy.
--->Democracy as a way of experiencing the world.
---> Water images: “[…] I will plant companionship thick as trees
along all the rivers of America and along the shores of the great lakes,
and all over the prairies […]”

Water images + use of “I”
--->Democracy as ideal form of government: “continent indissoluble”; “the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon”.
--->Democracy as a mother figure.

Love:
---> “the love of comrades”
--->Democracy as object of love: “
ma famme
”.

Human body and its capacity for physical contact.
---> “I will make inseparable cities with their arms about
each other’s necks […]”.







Bond between
poem and author
Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of
America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over
the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each
other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.
For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you
ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
Democracy as a way of life.
--->He doesn't discuss politics.
--->the community of the comrades as the only one.

Analogy: the ideal Democracy and the self: it would be capable of containing the whole world.


Plant life and water.
--->symbolize growth and multiplicity.
Whitman's style
Rhyme and Free verse:

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me .
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future ,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

The emphatic speech:
“But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known”
“Expecting the main things from you”


The importance of the self:
“Expecting the main things from you”
“Leaving it to you to prove and define it,”

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the
darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
Whitman's style
Possibilities about the interpretation
Whitman addressed this poem to future artist.

Poem nationalistic.

The topic.

Whitman's challenge

Whitman's style
The use of lists:

“But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
before known,”

“Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!”

Literary devices:


Anaphores:
“I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
“I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.”

Metaphors:
“I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future”
“I but advance a moment only to wheel and burry back in the darkness”

Whitman's style
Full transcript