‘Song of Myself’ is one of the most representative poems of Walt Whitman. It reveals what Walt Whitman is and what he stands for. In this poem, the poet discovers himself and gives the boldest expression to his true and ever expanding poetic-self defying all the limitations. In fact, it is a voyage of the self into the realms of imagination in an attempt to find its true nature. The poem celebrates his joy of finding his limitless and unbounded self identifying with the universal spirit.
It is a journey from the individual self to the universal self.
The poet expresses himself joyfully with the ‘original energy of nature which is unchecked and in exhaustive. The opening lines prepare the readers for an unprecedented flight of imagination. “He says, I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. ” (Section-1) Whitman directly expresses the universality of the self and indirectly suggests the equality of all.
He expresses the true nature of the self. He feels it is common to all and everyone has the same self. Everyone in the world has an equal claim on this world.
He identifies his physical self and makes a distinction between the physical self of the poet and universal self of the poet. In the third stanza he says, …. form’d from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death. (Section-1) The identity of the poet is revealed here. He was born to his parents and he was thirty seven years old enjoying robust health. These lines throw light on the personal life of the author.
With this identity he starts his journey into the realms of freedom and equality where he finds himself perfectly in tune with the universe. He enjoys himself in his physical self and feels contented. He has neither worries nor any anxieties. He does not consider this life as preparation for the next. He is absolutely happy about his life and happy about what he is. The mention of soil and air clearly reveal that he is conscious of the world where he has come from. The poet is very happy with this beautiful world. The fresh air breathes new spirit in him. He identifies himself with nature and he wants to be as close to nature.
He does not like anything to come in between himself and nature. He wants to be honest with nature. Here, we find the poet equating nakedness with honesty. He says, “I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, I am mad for it to be in contact with me. ” (Section-2) He rejoices himself being close to nature. The proximity with nature gives him vitality and strength. He totally identifies himself with the soil, water and air. He says, “My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs, The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore.
” (Section-2) The poet celebrates himself for being a part of such wonderful nature. He is neither worried nor concerned about any thing that may happen in future. He is very much concerned with the present. He is down to the earth practical, and at the same time, he expresses the wisdom of living in the present instead of thinking about future and worrying about the past. He expresses his happiness saying, “I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, and sing. ” He has no complaints about the present and his presence in this world. He says he is not blind to the problems and evil in this world.
But he does not allow them to spoil his happiness and his celebration. His reference to “myself” refers to his soul. It is the essence of his personality. He identifies the soul of the speaker is the soul in everyone. It is the universal self. It is quite untouched by the sufferings of the world. In fact, Whitman identifies the speaker of the poem with the birth of his poetic self. The newly born poet finds himself joyful and happy. The poet mentions that the spirit of the poet is a brother of god. He says, “And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women and my sisters and lovers, And that a kelson of the creation is love. ” (Section-5) Whitman says the new self of the poet identifies itself with everything in nature. It identifies itself with a blade of grass. He feels the grass represents the same what a man represents. The awakened self of the poet strikes a common cord with the creative forces of the world. He says: “A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands, How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is anymore than he. ” The grass stands as symbol for equality.
It also represents the creative spirit in the world. He then goes on listing the things he has seen in American life, the joys, the worries, the celebration of the human race and celebration of everyday life. He describes the people he has met on his travels. He accepts them all without any complaints against them. Here, the poet shows his maturity of understanding and his modesty in accepting everything that life offers him. He does not question anything nor suspect any one. He describes himself as a lover of life. He says in the section 13 of the poem, he is a “caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as forward sluing&.
Absorbing all to myself and for this song. ” (Section-13) He strikes a beautiful comparison between his nature and the grass. He says: “This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, this the common air that bathes the globe. ” As the grass grows every where he also respects everything and everyone in this world. He says, “I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer’d and slain persons,” and “I will not have a single person slighted or left away. ” (Section-18) Thus, the speaker in the poem, the new born poet shows a compassionate spirit and rejoices himself.
The intensity in the search for the true meaning increases as the poem progresses. He asks in a philosophical tone, “Who goes there? Hankering, gross, mystical, nude: How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? What is a man anyhow? What am I? What are you? ” He is not dazzled by these questions nor withdraws himself to silence. He expresses himself and answers the questions he has raised. He says, “In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them. ” (Section-20) He also adds saying,
“I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul, the pleasures of heaven are with me and pains of hell are with me. ” (Section-21) He rightly expresses that his poetry is a combination of both body and soul. There is something for the soul and there is something for the body. He mixes these things as naturally as a forest mixes different trees. His poetry is not like a cultivated garden. It is like a jungle. It is full of nature’s bounty. It is full of variety and it is vast. Just like the poem, the poet’s self grows to be the universal self and identifies itself with multitude of people and the creation in the world.
The poet’s self grows beyond any limits and reaches the borders of vast expanses. The true self of the poet is no different from the vast and expanding world of his poetry. He grows as a man; his self grows to be a universal self and his soul ripens with wisdom and understanding, having made the entire tumultuous journey. He makes it clear that his poetic voice and his realization of his true self are not two different things. They are like the twins. He says, “My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach, With the twirl of my tongue I encompass world and volumes of worlds.
Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself, It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically, Walt you contain enough, why don’t you let it out then? ” (section-25) The poet’s identity of his voice with his poetic vision is a major leap in the journey. He realizes that the two senses reveal the same reality that he finds. He goes on exploring further and he says, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars. ” (Section-31) Here, he realizes the some living force behind all the things in the world which makes them equal. He feels he is perfectly at home with everything in the world.
He has no complaints nor any plans for improvement. He enjoys the sight of animals which are placid and self-contained. They are in absolute peace. He wants to live with them in that condition. He spends his time looking at them for a long time. He denounces the worries and frustrations of people as meaningless. The poet realizes the uniqueness of this realization and treats it with all the specialty and respect it commands. In the section 39 he begins speaking about himself in the third person. It is an indirect reference to what he has realized in the course of his journey.
In that state of mind, wherever the poet goes he is respected and admired. He becomes the most liked person. He says, “Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him, They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them. ” He assumes the role of a guide and wants to lead the people with his realization. He says, “I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown. ” Thus, the poet finds himself in a new role after the journey. He feels the realization he has, made him unique and this experience will be useful to the people who need guidance amid their turbulent lives.