Song of Myself critical reading

17

These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,

If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,

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In the epic poem, Song of Myself (1892 version), Walt Whitman has taken this poem and developed a sense of community within it. There is a distinct feeling of unity, and he explains ways that connect us all through it. The poem goes into explaining individuality compared to society. He takes his own views and experiences and relates them with others, he connects his life with others. Whitman even writes “This the common air that bathes the globe,” which just further proves his point that we’re all one in the same.

Whitman goes through 16 different verses before admitting that he is nothing unique in his writing. In this various verses he explains different views from different people, and then writes that they are the “thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,” to clarify that these are what other people are feeling and thinking. Whitman wanted to share these individual thoughts with the world because they are unique within themselves yet they are all shared between us all.

When Walt Whitman writes “if they are not yours as much as mine, they are nothing,” he is explaining that if they are not shared memories then they are not memories at all. It brings back that sense of unity between us, that without each other we don’t mean much at all.

As the poem continues, Whitman goes on to describe different ways he identifies as himself, and how others identify as themselves. Whether it be a universal self or a personal self, he has different explanations for each. For example, the way he refers to nature with lines like “Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,” is more of a universal self rather than something personal like “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the Son.”

In Song of Myself, Whitman alternates between various points of view. Within certain verses, he will be different people speaking, hoping the reader connects with one of these personalities. He also delves into the natural world that we are all connected to. Whitman tends to lean towards a spiritual and natural feel with his writing.

The line, “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from” touches more on the spiritual aspect of his writing. Whitman makes it clear that he connects these thoughts he shares with everyone who reads, so wether this particular verse is more personal or universal is more up to interpretation. Either way, this is more of a personal statement. Not everyone who reads this will be able to relate, but some will.

All in all, Walt Whitman wrote a poem about unity and how we are all connected, even if it’s unknowingly. He has taken this and brought us all together with various thoughts. Whitman has also shown us how to identify with a certain self, whether that be a universal self or a personal self. It’s another way to connect with others and develop who we really are as a community.

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