Whitman - Song of Myself First of all a poet would have to...

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Song of Myself First of all a poet would have to be living in a free and democratic society to have published such a controversial work. For an example, simply look to the picturesque language of chant 5 “I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning; / You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me, / And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestrip heart, . . .” The way he uses sexual imagery to convey his point is ultimately too controversial to have been printed in any society which practices censorship. The language was especially provocative for the time in which it was written. We may not see it as incredibly sensual or erotic in our time, but when it was written it was highly extraordinary to see such language in common literature. We also need to examine chant 6 in our quest to understand why Whitman believed his poetry could not have been written in any other time or in any other country than our own free and democratic United States. “Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, / A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped, / Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corner’s, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? / . . .” Whitman lived in a time of expansion and growth unlike any other in our history. He watched our country grow until it had more than doubled in size. Whitman wrote about the ills and goods, which were at once a part of the reality and the potentiality of the ever-expanding country he saw before him. At no other time has this country experienced so many growing pains or seen so many changes as it during Whitman’s lifetime. This country never had as much potential for improvement as it did at that time in history either. He was writing as the country outgrew itself and in turn reinvented itself. He himself was also growing and changing as he wrote. He outgrew himself and reinvented himself throughout the course of his life much as the country had. His poetry was reformed and reshaped many times during the course it traversed to its final completion and Whitman was correct in his assumption that it could have been created and formed at no other time or place in history and become exactly as it did. It would be impossible for me to discuss all of the potential political interpretations of this poem in this PCR. I can however point out and discuss a couple of them such as the changing value system of average Americans and equality for all. For an example of the greed that was overwhelming people and changing their values we can look at chant 23, “ A word of reality . . . . materialism first and last imbuing.” Later in that chant, “I am less the reminder of property or qualities, and more the reminder of life, / . . . / And make short accounts of neuters and geldings, and favor men and women fully equipped, / And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire.” These lines appear to reflect social problems of the community and the
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Whitman - Song of Myself First of all a poet would have to...

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