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Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was a follower of the two Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and

Henry David Thoreau. He believed in Emerson and Thoreau's Trascendentalist beliefs.

Whitman believed that individualism stems from listening to one's inner voice and that one's

life is guided by one's intuition. The Transcendentalist centered on the divinity of each

individual; but this divinity could be self-discovered only if the person had the independence of

mind to do so. Whitman lent himself to this concept of independence. He once said,"Everything

on earth has the divine spark within and thus is all part of a whole."(web.pg2trans.) This

philosophy of individualism led to an optimistic emphasis on society. Because Whitman

immodestly praised the human body and glorified the senses, "Walt Whitman's poems assert the

worth of the individual and the oneness of all humanity."

Walt Whitman was an American poet who was born on May 31, 1819, near Huntington,

N.Y. He was the second of a family of nine children. His father was a carpenter and his mother,

who he a had a close relationship,was a housewife. When he was four years old, his family

moved to Brooklyn, where he attended public school for six years before being apprenticed to a

printer. In 1835 he began teaching in country schools. After several yrs. spent at various jobs,

including building houses, he began writing a new kind of poetry and thereafter neglected

business. Shortly after, in 1955 Whitman issued the first of many editions of Leaves of Grass, a

volume of poetry in a new kind of versification, far different from his sentimental rhymed verse

of the 1840s.

Andrews 2

Whitman's first poem in Leaves of Grass is called "Song of Myself". In this poem

Whitman writes about himself and as is characteristic of Whitman, the "self" becomes a

metaphor for humanity as a whole. Whitman came to no conclusion and does not satisfy the

readers of this poem. In "Song of Myself" Whitman tells us that the absolute unity of matter and

spirit, and all which that unity involves, is the dominant conception of this first and most

characteristic period. Whitman said, "The true poet is not the follower of beauty, but the august

of beauty." (pg 362 Crit). Whitman's "Song of Myself" was capable of making whoever withes

to be so, wiser, happier, better; and it does these not by acting on the intelect, by telling us what

is best for us, what we ought to do and avoid doing, but by acting directly on the moral nature

itself, and elevating and purifying that.

"Song of Myself" is the most complete utterance of Whitman's first great conception of

life. " No innovations must be permitted on the stern severities of out liberty and our

equality".( 2 USR) That was the message that Whitman was trying to get through to

people by reading his poems. In most of Whitman's poems including "Song of Myself"

Whitman appears to be surrounded by women and children, and by young men, and by common

objects and qualities. He gives to each just what belongs to it, neither more or less. The person

nearest him, that person he ushers hand in hand with himself. "Song of Myself' was the poem

that I believe revieled the most about Whitman's attitude and beliefs. In "Song of Myself"

Whitman celebrates individuality and his beliefs of the existence of a shared universal self or

soul. This also showes how he really believed in Transcendentalism which stated strong


individualism and self-reliance. Critics who didn't believe in Whitman's beliefs rejected his

optimistic outlook on humanity and life. They declared such optimism naive and unrealistic.

They felt humans were depraved and had to stuggle for goodness. They feared the people who

desired complete individualism would give into the worse angles of man's nature. They viewed

Whitman's Transcendentalism as selfish and impractal.

Andrews 3

Whitman's Leaves of Grass was made up of 11 other poems that were just as

inconclusive as "Song of Myself". They were all written to express Whitman's belief of

Transcendentalism. In the Leaves of Grass are the facts of eternity and immortality, largely

treated. Leaves of Grass was an attempted

, as they are, of a naive, masculine, and affectionate

person, to cast into literature not only his own grit and arrogance, but his own flesh and form.

His whole work, his life, manners, friendlyships,



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