Whitman was a believer in phrenology in the preface to Leaves of Grass he includes the phrenologist among those he describes as "the lawgivers of poets" , and borrowed its term "adhesiveness", which referred to the propensity for friendship and camaraderie. Whitman edited, revised, and republished Leaves of Grass many times before his death, and over the years his focus and ideas were not static. One critic has identified three major "thematic drifts" in Leaves of Grass : the period to , from to , and from to his death.
In the first period, to , his major work is "Song of Myself" and it exemplifies his prevailing love for freedom. From to his death, the ideas Whitman presented in his second period had experienced an evolution.
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His focus on death had grown to a focus on immortality, the major theme of this period. Whitman became more conservative in his old age, and had come to believe that the importance of law exceeded the importance of freedom. His materialistic view of the world became far more spiritual, and Whitman believed that life had no meaning outside of the context of God's plan. While Whitman has famously proclaimed his poetry to be "Nature without check with original energy" in "Song of Myself", scholars have discovered that Whitman borrowed from a number of sources for Leaves of Grass.
He, for instance, lifted phrases from popular newspapers dealing with Civil War battles for his Drum-Taps  and condensed a chapter from a popular science book into his poem "The World Below the Brine". When the book was first published, Walt Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior , after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it offensive.
An early review of the first publication focused on the persona of the anonymous poet, calling him a loafer "with a certain air of mild defiance, and an expression of pensive insolence on his face". Osgood , that Leaves of Grass constituted "obscene literature". Urged by the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice , his letter said: "We are of the opinion that this book is such a book as brings it within the provisions of the Public Statutes respecting obscene literature and suggest the propriety of withdrawing the same from circulation and suppressing the editions thereof.
Its banning in Boston, for example, became a major scandal and it generated much publicity for Whitman and his work. Not all responses were negative, however. Whitman firmly believed he would be accepted and embraced by the populace, especially the working class. Years later, he would regret not having toured the country to deliver his poetry directly by lecturing. Leaves of Grass ' s status as one of the most important collections of American poetry has meant that over time various groups and movements have used it, and Whitman's work in general, to further their own political and social purposes.
For example:. Nevertheless, Whitman has been criticized for the nationalism expressed in Leaves of Grass and other works. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Leaves of Grass disambiguation. Walt Whitman , age 37, frontispiece to Leaves of Grass. Steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison.
An recording, thought to be of Walt Whitman, reading the opening four lines of his poem "America", which is included in Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn Daily Eagle. June 1, Retrieved October 27, — via Newspapers. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved October 1, The Almanac of American Letters. World Digital Library.
Retrieved August 3, Harvard University Press. Put simply, you should care about "Song of Myself" because it's about you. At a deeper level, he meant this poem to be universal.
Whitman Song of Myself Essay | Bartleby
His poetic persona is like a big vacuum sucking up everyone and everything into itself. When, after September 11, , the French newspaper Le Monde wrote the headline, "We Are All Americans," Whitman would have cheered, because that's exactly how he felt. He didn't mean in the narrow sense that everyone is or should be like the people living inside the borders of a single country. Nope, for Whitman, "America" was an ideal that anyone could strive for, an ideal of independence, equality, optimism, and brotherly love.
- Walt Whitman Song of Myself.
- Walt Whitman: On Leaves of Grass and Democracy - The Atlantic?
- SparkNotes: Whitman’s Poetry: “Song of Myself”.
We'll just note in passing that Whitman's poetry has been an important source of wisdom for both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. Now, the word "assume" can be mean "believe" or "take for granted," but it can also mean, "to take on" or "become.
He never judges and rarely criticizes. He is someone to whom you could tell your deepest, darkest secrets, and he'd probably chuckle, pat you on the back, and invite you for a walk. There's something comforting and uplifting about the way he tries to bring people together using words. Unfortunately, Whitman didn't succeed in making all of his fellow Americans see the common bonds between them: the Civil War started five years after this poem included in Leaves of Grass was first published.
But Whitman was endlessly optimistic, and he believed that the real "America" and the real "democracy" were still around the bend. As the end of the poem states, Whitman is still out there, somewhere, waiting for the rest of us to catch up with him. All rights reserved.
Just look at how "Song of Myself" begins: I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. Get started.
Deconstruction of Definition of Self in Whitman's Poem
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