• Alyssa Proctor

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, who was born in 1819, is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century, and America’s world poet (“Walt Whitman”). His most well-known writings are written about very vast topics, which contemplate and consider a very wide range of perspectives and lifestyle choices. Perhaps, it is because of Whitman’s writing ability to consider many topics and explain perspectives were the assets that helped his career to be so successful. We can always reflect on how “This monumental work [of his] chanted praises to the body as well as to the soul, and found beauty and reassurance even in death” (“Walt Whitman”). Whitman’s perspective of the American life is one that expresses how we should appreciate life and enjoy it.

Despite the many interests which Whitman possessed and wrote about, he was always depicting the life of American’s, and the many lessons which we can learn from one another. Today we will be depicting the Leaves of Grass, as well as one of his most well-known works called Song of Myself and appreciating the several perspectives and morals which he shares within the piece. Throughout his life he learned many lessons and wanted to revisit his previous works in order to incorporate the morals which he thought were important to pass onto future generations.

It is nice to appreciate how each of Whitman’s writings has their own morals and lessons to be learned when reading his works. Whitman would edit his works multiple times before he called them complete, and this process would sometimes take several years to finish. He revisited his piece called Leaves of Grass multiple times through his lifetime, as “Whitman expanded and revised the poetry and added more to the original collection of 12 poems” (“Walt Whitman”). It seems as although most of the piece was simply written on a whim, as the attention given to one thought is rather brief, and not elaborately pondered upon. In the piece, he mentions and describes several other perspectives of an American life at the time, or in other words placing himself in a different characters’ shoes.

Even though Whitman’s writing style jumps from topics and point rather quickly, he includes in depth details and often morals along the way. In one instance, he describes, “The tone of Leaves of Grass is very realistic yet also deep, and not simply surface details. See situations or instances through other’s eyes and all while making wonderful points, for instance when he stated that, “All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain” (Whitman 1301). Another beautiful quote which he wrote to remind us to not assume things about people in the poem is, “He judges not as the judge judges but as the sun falling around a helpless thing” (Whitman 1300).

Songs of Myself was another poem by Whitman which is highly influential and respected piece. Multiple times, “Throughout the poem, Whitman probes the question of how large the new democratic self can become before it dissipates into contradiction and fragmentation, and each time he seems to reach the limit, he dilates even more” (“Section 1…”). Whitman eventually concluded that time is eternal, although, he would still often find himself pondering “The concept of time [which] held mystical significance for Walt Whitman, and his poetry represents time not merely as an adversary with which the poet must contend but also a vast force with which the soul may merge itself to achieve peace and transcendence” (“The Walt Whitman Archive”). A peaceful tone is used in most of his writing, and he does not see the point in trying to live life at such a fast pace, as we are only granted so very many little years on earth.

He frequently contemplated how one’s life should be spent, and how their time should be delegated throughout all of these years. Whitman had a very levelheaded life view and as “An ideal poet, he believed, is the poet of man first, then of nature, and finally of God; these elements are united by the poet's harmonious visionary power” (“Walt Whitman”). He often wrote about living a balanced life and encouraged his readers to not sweat over small things, so that they could instead lead a highly enjoyable life.

His works are mostly American themed, as we can find that he mentions the American spirit and lifestyle quite often. When he describes America, “Whitman harmonizes this romanticism and realism to achieve a true representation of the spirit of America” (“Leaves of Grass”). An important point which Whitman makes several times, is how if we only look around at our surroundings, we can learn several lessons.

Even though he wrote about several years ago, we can still see how his moral and ethics reflect in our everyday lives currently. Whitman’s works are timeless and will always be remembered and appreciated by generations to come as they are applicable to everyone’s everyday lives no matter what year they are living in. His attitude and American spirit is inspiring as it is not limited to one character, and in fact is described multiple times over in several ways.

Works Cited

“Leaves of Grass.” Walt Whitman Biography, https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/l/leaves-of-grass/walt-whitman-biography.

“Section 1, Song of Myself.” Section 1 | IWP WhitmanWeb, https://iwp.uiowa.edu/whitmanweb/en/writings/song-of-myself/section-1.

“The Walt Whitman Archive.” John T. Matteson, "Time" (Criticism) - The Walt Whitman Archive, https://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_700.html.

“Walt Whitman.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/walt-whitman.

Whitman, Walt. “Leaves of Grass.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, Beginnings to 1820, 9 ed., edited by Robert S. Levine, Norton, 2017, pp. 1300-1301.


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