Analyzing the Text
It is an appropriate introduction because it emphasizes the individual and the universal (2-3) as well as introduces the theme of localized identity (6). In the last stanza the poet defines what his poetic vision will be, “I permit to speak at every hazard,/ Nature without check with original energy” (12-3). These are the essential themes of the entire poem.
These lines suggest the impact of the poem, that his message, which is “untranslatable” (2), will spread nonetheless and be good for America, “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,/ But I shall be good health to you nevertheless” (11-12). It reinforces the poet’s ties to nature as, “I effuse my flesh in eddies” (8). It is a fitting end to the poem as it addresses the poet’s message’s impact on the audience, or the significance of the entire poem.
In section 6, the large theme introduced is the universality of American life and experience which can be nurtured by the poet. In section 52, the main theme has to do with the message’s (created from the grass introduced in section 6) impact on the reader. They offer insight on the process of poetry, from the tools used to the product’s impact.
Section 1 and Section 33 communicate Whitman’s idea that “what I assume you shall assume,/ for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Section 1: 2-3). There is a bond which unites all humanity, the bond of experience and empathy. In Section 33, Whitman shows this through his account of different heroes and then saying, “All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine” (10). In such, what belongs to the one, belongs to the other and therefore unites everyone.
Lines 8-12 of section 6 clearly show this voice when the speaker uses lines like, “in broad and narrow zones” (9), “growing among black…as among white” (10) and “I give them the same” (11). The voice here is inclusive of all races and ages, it is “uniform” (8). In lines 14-25 of Section 33, this voice is shown when the poet says, “All these I feel or am” (16). The poet lists heroes and martyrs across gender, race, age and class, which is highly democratic. The poet takes on the suffering of those listed and makes them his own, “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person” (24).
Free verse is the best vehicle because it allows the poet to move freely, naturally from theme to theme. Nature is big topic of Whitman’s and so that his poetry should be unconstrained and organic, makes sense. The reason for this is seen in Section 1, the last line “Nature without check with original energy” (13). His poetry therefore must be unconstrained by rhyme or rhythm
In section 1, the poet says “My tongue…form’d from this soil” (6) and then “born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same” (7). This indicates that the poet (Whitman) is from this place here (America) and that his tongue (poetry) is made up of America. Then the poet indicates the transcendental nature of his being, going into the past and bringing it into something new. We see also the focus on geography. In section 6, the poet says “sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,/ growing among black folks as among white” (9/10). This suggests the equalizing role taken on by the poet. In section 52, the speaker makes himself one with nature, suggesting the incarnation of nature in the poet, “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love” (9).