'Thought' by Walt Whitman
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OF what I write from myself--As if that were not the resumé;
Of Histories--As if such, however complete, were not less complete
than the preceding poems;
As if those shreds, the records of nations, could possibly be as
lasting as the preceding poems;
As if here were not the amount of all nations, and of all the lives
Editor 1 Interpretation
Poetry, Thought by Walt Whitman: A Masterpiece of American Poetry
Walt Whitman’s Poetry, Thought is a masterpiece of American poetry. The poem is a profound meditation on the nature of poetry and the role of the poet in society. It is a celebration of the power of language to connect us to each other and to the world around us. Whitman’s voice is confident and exuberant, and his words are as fresh and vital today as they were when he first wrote them.
Poetry, Thought is a long poem, divided into six sections. The poem begins with a declaration of the poet’s vocation:
Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
Arouse! for you must justify me.
The poet is calling upon future generations of poets to carry on his work, to be “greater than before known.” He is challenging them to be bold and daring, to break free from the conventions of the past and create something new.
The poem goes on to explore the relationship between poetry and thought. The poet argues that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or diversion, but a serious philosophical inquiry:
Poetry fetishes, poetry fetters, fetters the bard singing his
Fetters the mind in its own prison, fetters the spirit and bars its
In other words, poetry has the power to free us from the limitations of our own thinking, to open up new possibilities for understanding the world.
One of the major themes of the poem is the relationship between the individual and society. The poet sees himself as a part of a larger community, and he believes that his work has the power to connect people together:
As I ponder’d in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
Here, the poet is being challenged by the “Phantom” of the past, who is asking him to justify his work. The poet responds by affirming the importance of his own voice, and by asserting that each poet has his or her own unique perspective to contribute to the larger conversation.
Another theme of the poem is the power of language to create meaning. The poet is fascinated by the relationship between words and the world they describe:
Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air—and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
For Whitman, words are not just symbols, but living things that can transform our understanding of the world around us.
Whitman’s style is characterized by long, flowing lines and a free-verse structure that rejects traditional forms like rhyme and meter. He uses repetition and cataloguing to create a sense of abundance and richness:
Of these States the poet is the equable man,
Not in him but off from him things are grotesque, eccentric, fail of
their full returns,
Nothing out of its place is good, nothing in its place is bad,
He bestows on every object or quality its fit proportion,
Neither more nor less, he is the arbiter of the diverse,
He is the key,
He is the equalizer of his age and land,
He supplies what wants supplying, he checks what wants checking,
In peace out of him speaks the spirit of peace, large, rich, thrifty,
building populous towns, encouraging agriculture, arts,
commerce, lighting the study of man,
He is the answerer,
What can be answer’d he answers, and what cannot be answer’d he
shows how it cannot be answer’d.
This passage shows Whitman’s skill at weaving together disparate elements into a coherent whole. He is able to take abstract concepts like “equability” and “the spirit of peace” and ground them in concrete images like “agriculture” and “commerce.”
Poetry, Thought is a highly philosophical poem, and its meaning is not always clear. One possible interpretation is that the poem is a defense of the poet’s role in society. Whitman is arguing that poets have a vital role to play in shaping the culture of their time, and that they should not be dismissed as mere entertainers. He is also suggesting that poetry has the power to change the way we think about the world, and that it can help us to see things in a new light.
Another possible interpretation is that the poem is a celebration of the power of language. Whitman is suggesting that words are not just symbols, but living things that can transform our understanding of the world. He is also arguing that poetry is not just a form of entertainment, but a serious philosophical inquiry that can help us to break free from the limitations of our own thinking.
Poetry, Thought is a masterpiece of American poetry. It is a profound meditation on the nature of poetry and the role of the poet in society. Whitman’s voice is confident and exuberant, and his words are as fresh and vital today as they were when he first wrote them. The poem is a celebration of the power of language to connect us to each other and to the world around us, and it is a call to future generations of poets to carry on the work of the past and create something new.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Walt Whitman's "Poetry Thought" is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. This poem is a reflection of Whitman's thoughts on the power of poetry and its ability to connect people across time and space. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and literary devices used in this poem, and how they contribute to its overall meaning.
The poem begins with the line, "To have great poets, there must be great audiences too." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it highlights the importance of the relationship between the poet and the audience. Whitman believed that poetry was not just a solitary pursuit, but rather a collaborative effort between the poet and the reader. He believed that the audience played a crucial role in the creation and interpretation of poetry.
Whitman goes on to say, "I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul." This line is significant because it highlights the duality of human existence. Whitman believed that the body and soul were interconnected, and that poetry had the power to capture both aspects of human experience. He believed that poetry could help people connect with their bodies and souls, and that it could provide a sense of unity and wholeness.
The next line, "The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me," further emphasizes this idea of duality. Whitman believed that poetry could capture both the joys and sorrows of life, and that it could provide a sense of catharsis for both the poet and the reader. He believed that poetry had the power to heal and transform, and that it could help people find meaning and purpose in their lives.
Whitman then goes on to say, "The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue." This line is significant because it highlights the creative process of poetry. Whitman believed that poetry was not just a reflection of the world, but rather a transformation of it. He believed that the poet had the power to take the raw materials of life and turn them into something new and beautiful. He believed that poetry was a form of alchemy, and that it could transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
The next line, "I am the poet of the woman the same as the man," is significant because it highlights Whitman's belief in equality. He believed that poetry was a universal language that could connect people across gender, race, and class. He believed that poetry had the power to break down barriers and create a sense of unity and solidarity among all people.
Whitman then goes on to say, "And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men." This line is significant because it highlights the importance of motherhood and the role of women in society. Whitman believed that women were the backbone of society, and that they deserved to be celebrated and honored. He believed that poetry had the power to elevate and celebrate the contributions of women, and that it could help create a more just and equitable society.
The next line, "I am the poet of the common man," is significant because it highlights Whitman's belief in democracy. He believed that poetry should be accessible to all people, regardless of their social status or education level. He believed that poetry had the power to empower and inspire ordinary people, and that it could help create a more democratic and egalitarian society.
Whitman then goes on to say, "And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God," which is a departure from his previous lines. This line is significant because it highlights Whitman's skepticism towards organized religion. He believed that people should focus on the here and now, rather than worrying about the afterlife. He believed that poetry had the power to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in the present moment, and that it could help people find fulfillment and happiness in this life.
The final lines of the poem, "You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self," are significant because they highlight the importance of individuality and critical thinking. Whitman believed that poetry was not just a passive experience, but rather an active one. He believed that the reader had the power to interpret and filter the poem through their own experiences and perspectives. He believed that poetry had the power to inspire and challenge, and that it could help people think for themselves and form their own opinions.
In conclusion, Walt Whitman's "Poetry Thought" is a powerful reflection on the power of poetry and its ability to connect people across time and space. Through his use of duality, creativity, equality, democracy, and individuality, Whitman highlights the transformative power of poetry and its ability to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of literature and its ability to inspire and challenge us, even after all these years.
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