'Inscription' by Walt Whitman

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SMALL is the theme of the following Chant, yet the greatest--namely,
One's-Self--that wondrous thing a simple, separate person.
That, for the use of the New World, I sing.
Man's physiology complete, from top to toe, I sing. Not physiognomy
alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse;--I say the Form
complete is worthier far. The female equal with the male, I
Nor cease at the theme of One's-Self. I speak the word of the modern,
the word En-Masse:
My Days I sing, and the Lands--with interstice I knew of hapless War.

O friend whoe'er you are, at last arriving hither to commence, I feel
through every leaf the pressure of your hand, which I return.
And thus upon our journey link'd together let us go.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Poetic Beauty of Walt Whitman's Inscription

Walt Whitman is, without a doubt, one of the most significant poets in American literature. His works, written during the 19th century, were groundbreaking for the time, and his style was unlike anything that had been seen before. In particular, his poem "Inscription" is a masterpiece that showcases his unique writing style.

Analysis of the Poem

The poem "Inscription" is a free-verse poem that was first published in 1860, in the third edition of Leaves of Grass. It is a long poem consisting of 22 stanzas, each with varying numbers of lines. The poem is essentially a reflection on life and death, and how they are intertwined.

The first stanza sets the tone for the entire poem. Whitman writes, "Small is the theme of the following Chant, yet the greatest--namely, One's-Self--a simple, separate person." This line is significant because it establishes that the poem will be focused on individual experiences, but it acknowledges that those experiences are essential and impactful.

Throughout the poem, Whitman explores the idea that life and death are interconnected. He writes about how death is a natural part of life and that it should be embraced rather than feared. In stanza 5, he writes, "For life and death, and for the mere passing momentary joys, and for me, O Manhattan!" This line captures the idea that life is fleeting, and we should appreciate every moment that we have.

Whitman also explores the idea that our individual experiences are part of a larger whole. In stanza 8, he writes, "I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, / Regardless of others, ever regardful of others." This line captures the idea that we are all connected, and that every individual experience is significant.

Another key theme in the poem is the idea of the afterlife. Whitman writes about how death is not the end, but rather a continuation of life. In stanza 17, he writes, "And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles, / Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, / Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky." This line captures the idea that there is something beyond this life, and that death is just a transition to something greater.

Interpretation of the Poem

One of the things that makes "Inscription" such a powerful poem is Whitman's use of language. His writing style is very unique, and he often uses repetition and parallelism to create a rhythmic flow to the poem. For example, in stanza 10, he writes, "I hear the chorus--it is a grand opera, / Ah, this indeed is music--this suits me." This repetition creates a musical quality to the poem, and it adds to its overall beauty.

Another thing that makes the poem powerful is its message. Whitman is essentially arguing that life should be celebrated and that death should be embraced. He believes that individual experiences are significant and that they are part of a larger whole. This message is particularly relevant today, as people often become too focused on their own individual experiences and forget about the larger community.

Overall, "Inscription" is a beautiful poem that captures the essence of life and death. Whitman's writing style is unique, and his message is powerful. It is a poem that can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or background.


Walt Whitman's "Inscription" is a masterpiece of American literature. It is a poem that showcases his unique writing style and his powerful message. The poem's focus on individual experiences and the interconnectedness of life is particularly relevant today, and it serves as a reminder that we should appreciate every moment that we have.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Walt Whitman's Poetry Inscription is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that speaks to the human spirit and the power of words to inspire and uplift. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this iconic work.

The poem begins with the lines, "This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people."

These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a call to action for the reader. Whitman is urging us to live a life of love, compassion, and generosity. He is asking us to reject the values of materialism and selfishness and instead embrace a life of service to others.

The poem is structured as a list of instructions, each one beginning with the phrase "This is what you shall do." This repetition creates a sense of urgency and emphasizes the importance of each instruction. It also gives the poem a rhythmic quality, which is characteristic of Whitman's style.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of language. Whitman's words are simple and direct, yet they have a profound impact. He uses concrete images, such as the earth, sun, and animals, to convey his message. This makes the poem accessible to a wide audience and allows the reader to connect with the ideas on a visceral level.

Whitman also uses repetition and parallelism to great effect. For example, he repeats the phrase "Love the earth and sun and the animals" three times in the first stanza. This repetition emphasizes the importance of this message and creates a sense of unity and harmony.

Another notable feature of the poem is its use of paradox. Whitman urges us to "despise riches" and "hate tyrants," yet he also asks us to "have patience and indulgence toward the people." This apparent contradiction is resolved by the overarching theme of the poem, which is love. Whitman is asking us to reject the values of greed and oppression and instead embrace a life of love and compassion.

The poem also contains several religious references, such as the phrase "argue not concerning God." This suggests that Whitman is advocating for a spirituality that is grounded in love and service rather than dogma and doctrine.

Overall, Whitman's Poetry Inscription is a powerful and inspiring work that speaks to the best in all of us. It is a call to action for the reader to live a life of love, compassion, and service to others. The poem's structure, language, and themes all work together to create a work of art that is both timeless and relevant.

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