Literature Study GuidesLeaves Of GrassI Hear America Singing Summary

Leaves of Grass | Study Guide

Walt Whitman

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Leaves of Grass | I Hear America Singing | Summary



Whitman's speaker hears the diverse voices of an American public. He hears the "blithe and strong" carols of mechanics, "the delicious singing of the mother," and the "robust, friendly" party songs of young fellows. All proudly sing of their varied experiences—"what belongs to him or her and to none else"—with "open mouths."


Whitman was not merely a poet in the written sense; he fancied himself an orator and a "singer" of poems. He loved the rhythm of the spoken word and worked to make his poetry a pleasure to the ears, like a song. His hope with this poem was that it would be a "song" that all Americans, whether "mason" or "mother," would one day also sing.

As the father of free verse, Whitman did away with a traditional structure of rhyming at the end of lines. Instead, as he does here, he often uses anaphora. He also uses the repetition of the word "singing," culminating in the last line, which is a joyous melody of pleasant sounds: "Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs." To achieve this effect, he uses alliteration, specifically consonance, by repeating the initial "s" sound in "singing," "strong," and "songs." He also alliterates the pleasing liquid consonant "m" in "mouths" and "melodious." "Strong" and "songs" form a near internal rhyme.

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