Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are two illustrious and significant 19th century poets. The analysis of two poems, “Of Him I Love Day and Night”, by Whitman and “A Death-Blow is a Life-Blow to Some”, by Dickinson, portray that despite Whitman’s free verse and Dickinson’s rhyme and meter the poems still convey similar messages concerning the eternal cycle that exists between death, body, and soul.
The writing style of these two poets could not be more different. The differences originate from their unique personalities and lifestyles.
Dickinson lived most of her life in seclusion, shy and timid, reluctant to publish her work. Whitman was a traveler, friendly and gregarious, who expected his work to have a lasting impression on its readers. Dickinson’s short poetic lines, condensed through intense metaphors and the use of ellipsis (the emission of words understood to be there), contrast sharply with Whitman’s long lines, little rhyme, and irregular rhythm. Poet, John Malcolm Brinnin, stated that, “Whitman and Dickinson represent two distinct seams in the fabric of American poetry, one slightly uneven and the other carefully measured and stitched tight.
” Whitman, the one “slightly uneven,” was often over-elaborative and careless. Whitman frequently contradicted himself in his attempt to describe everything in sight. Whitman’s style of writing was known as free verse, which is poetry without rhyme or meter.
This style of poetry was fitting since Whitman spoke for the average man, and this poetry was the kind that an average person would write.
Dickinson, on the other hand, was the poet “carefully measured and stitched tight.” She was very particular with her choice of words and sought the phrase that would best fix an image in the mind. In contrast, Whitman’s “Of Him I Love Day and Night” is replete with repetition and the cadences of free verse, which perfectly reflects Whitman’s style of poetry. For example, Whitman uses the phrase, “I dream’d I”, in four instances and repeats the phrase, “I shall be satisfied”, three times. His unconventional style was revolutionary to the extent that it was the first effort to break away from the typical rhyme and meter of poetry. Meanwhile, “A Death-Blow is a Life-Blow to Some” is a concise, rhyming, insightful poem representing Dickinson’s style of poetry. This particular poem is four lines long and flows rhythmically. The rhyme and meter in Dickinson’s poems is portrayed clearly in the first two lines,
“A death-blow is a life-blow to some
Who, till they died, did not alive become.”
Dickinson wrote poetry for herself rather than others and tended to regard poems as experiences, not as statements like Whitman. This affects the style of poetry of Whitman and Dickinson to a degree. Whitman in writing poetry was writing for all of America as a spokesman of the people, where as Dickinson didn’t want her work judged by others and wished to keep her poetry to herself. These two poems have very few similarities in terms of style and structure typical of most of Whitman and Dickinson’s poetry. Read How PPE May Become Unsuitable for Use and the Actions to Take if This Happens
The poems of Whitman and Dickinson incorporate similar ideas concerning the endless cycle and death. Whitman’s “Of Him I Love Day and Night” is about the eternal cycle of life. Whitman dreamt that a friend of his died and that he went to his burial place but did not find him there. This is because he found that “every place was a burial-place; the houses full of life were equally full of death.” Whitman is trying to convey that life doesn’t end after death. He states that life and death exist everywhere and there is an endless cycle between death, body, and soul. The concept of oversoul found in Whitman’s poem asserts that everything is connected and there is life after death. “A Death-Blow is a Life-Blow to Some” is quite similar to the extent that it also discusses the eternal cycle and the afterlife. Dickinson claims that death can bring a new energy to some. This is expressed in the line, “Who, till they died did not alive become”. This is very similar to Whitman’s poem in the sense that they both believe in a connection between life and death and that death brings new life. To Whitman and Dickinson death is not a gloomy demise but a pleasant and satisfying experience. Whitman expresses this feeling towards the end of his poem when he states that “if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse, be duly render’d to powder, and pour’d in the sea, I shall be satisfied.” Whitman and Dickinson’s poetry express many similar ideas and beliefs as reflected in “Of Him I Love Day and Night” and “A Death-Blow is a Life-Blow to Some.” Also read alcolm X message to the grassroots analysis
The unique personalities and lifestyles of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson contribute to very different styles of poetry. Dickinson wrote very meticulously and her stanzas are controlled by rhyme and meter, where as Whitman was elaborative and developed a style of poetry called free verse. However, despite differences in style and structure the poems of Whitman and Dickinson reflect the similar message of the eternal cycle and the connection between death, body, and soul, which is illustrated beautifully by “Of Him I Love Day and Night” and “A Death-Blow is a Life-Blow to Some.”
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