'Faces' by Walt Whitman
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SAUNTERING the pavement, or riding the country by-road--lo! such
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality;
The spiritual, prescient face--the always welcome, common, benevolent
The face of the singing of music--the grand faces of natural lawyers
and judges, broad at the back-top;
The faces of hunters and fishers, bulged at the brows--the shaved
blanch'd faces of orthodox citizens;
The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist's face;
The ugly face of some beautiful Soul, the handsome detested or
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the mother of
The face of an amour, the face of veneration;
The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile rock;10
The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a castrated face;
A wild hawk, his wings clipp'd by the clipper;
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the
Sauntering the pavement, thus, or crossing the ceaseless ferry,
faces, and faces, and faces:
I see them, and complain not, and am content with all.
Do you suppose I could be content with all, if I thought them their
This now is too lamentable a face for a man;
Some abject louse, asking leave to be--cringing for it;
Some milk-nosed maggot, blessing what lets it wrig to its hole.
This face is a dog's snout, sniffing for garbage;20
Snakes nest in that mouth--I hear the sibilant threat.
This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea;
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go.
This is a face of bitter herbs--this an emetic--they need no label;
And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc, or hog's-lard.
This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives out the unearthly
Its veins down the neck distended, its eyes roll till they show
nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by the turn'd-in
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground while he
This face is bitten by vermin and worms,30
And this is some murderer's knife, with a half-pull'd scabbard.
This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee;
An unceasing death-bell tolls there.
Those then are really men--the bosses and tufts of the great round
Features of my equals, would you trick me with your creas'd and
Well, you cannot trick me.
I see your rounded, never-erased flow;
I see neath the rims of your haggard and mean disguises.
Splay and twist as you like--poke with the tangling fores of fishes
You'll be unmuzzled, you certainly will.40
I saw the face of the most smear'd and slobbering idiot they had at
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not;
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement;
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord, perfect and unharm'd, every inch
as good as myself.
The Lord advances, and yet advances;
Always the shadow in front--always the reach'd hand bringing up the
Out of this face emerge banners and horses--O superb! I see what is
I see the high pioneer-caps--I see the staves of runners clearing the
I hear victorious drums.
This face is a life-boat;
This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks no odds of the rest;
This face is flavor'd fruit, ready for eating;
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of all good.
These faces bear testimony, slumbering or awake;
They show their descent from the Master himself.
Off the word I have spoken, I except not one--red, white, black, are
In each house is the ovum--it comes forth after a thousand years.
Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me;60
Tall and sufficient stand behind, and make signs to me;
I read the promise, and patiently wait.
This is a full-grown lily's face,
She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the garden pickets,
Come here, she blushingly cries--Come nigh to me, limber-hipp'd man,
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon you,
Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me,
Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my breast and shoulders.
The old face of the mother of many children!
Whist! I am fully content.70
Lull'd and late is the smoke of the First-day morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras, the wild-cherry, and the cat-brier
I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
I heard what the singers were singing so long,
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the water-
Behold a woman!
She looks out from her quaker cap--her face is clearer and more
beautiful than the sky.
She sits in an arm-chair, under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
The sun just shines on her old white head.80
Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,
Her grandsons raised the flax, and her granddaughters spun it with
the distaff and the wheel.
The melodious character of the earth,
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go, and does not wish to
The justified mother of men.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Walt Whitman's "Faces": A Celebration of Diversity and Humanity
Walt Whitman's "Faces" is a poem that captures the rich tapestry of human experience and celebrates the diversity of the human race. It is a powerful and moving tribute to the many faces that make up the world we live in, and it speaks to the universal themes of love, loss, and the search for meaning in life.
Overview of the Poem
"Faces" is a free verse poem that was first published in 1867 as part of Whitman's seminal work, Leaves of Grass. The poem is divided into six sections, each of which explores a different aspect of the human face and its significance.
In the first section, Whitman sets the stage by describing the many faces he encounters in his daily life:
"I see them and complain not, and am content with all."
Here, Whitman expresses his acceptance of the many different faces he sees around him, and his willingness to embrace them all. He goes on to describe the faces of people from all walks of life, including "the mechanic's face," "the farmer's face," and "the sailor's face."
In the second section, Whitman delves deeper into the emotional significance of the human face, describing it as a "miracle" that reflects our innermost thoughts and feelings:
"Faces! Faces! O my brothers! O my sisters of the earth! / The face of the gentle, the angry, the helpless, the bold, / The face of the hypocrite, the immodest, the dauntless, the thief."
Here, Whitman acknowledges the many different emotions and motivations that can be seen in the human face, from the gentle and loving to the deceitful and dishonest.
In the third section, Whitman shifts his focus to the faces of children, whom he describes as "divine miracles":
"The rounded, pulsating, life-sustaining globe, / The face of the glassy waters of the bay, inlets, harbors, / The face of the pleasure of heaven-and-earth, there are millions of faces."
Here, Whitman celebrates the innocence and purity of children, and the way their faces reflect the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
In the fourth section, Whitman turns his attention to the faces of women, describing them as "the gateways of the earth":
"The face of the tan-faced girl who goes to fill her pail, / The youthful face of the sorrowful mother and the bitter face of the martyr, / The face of the bride and of the widow, the face of the full-breasted beloved."
Here, Whitman acknowledges the many different roles that women play in society, from the nurturing mother to the sensual lover.
In the fifth section, Whitman reflects on the faces of the aged and infirm, whom he describes as "the saddest, wisest, kindest faces":
"The face of the bow'd and pick'd-up old man, / The face of the blithe, loving, and friendly young man, / The face of the sick, the face of the cancerous patient with the hectic glow."
Here, Whitman shows us the beauty and wisdom that can be found in the faces of those who have experienced the trials and tribulations of life.
In the final section, Whitman brings his meditation on the human face to a close, declaring that:
"These are the thoughts that come to me as I sit by the roadside, / As I watch the endless procession of human faces."
Here, Whitman emphasizes the continuity of human experience, and the way that the faces we see around us are a reflection of our shared humanity.
Analysis and Interpretation
"Faces" is a poem that is full of rich imagery and powerful emotions, and it speaks to some of the most fundamental human experiences. At its heart, the poem is a celebration of diversity and humanity, and it encourages us to embrace the many different faces we see around us.
One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of repetition. Throughout the poem, Whitman repeats the word "faces," emphasizing the many different ways that the human face can be seen and interpreted. This repetition helps to create a sense of unity and continuity, highlighting the way that all human beings are connected through our shared experiences.
Another important theme in the poem is the idea of acceptance. Whitman emphasizes his willingness to accept all of the different faces he sees, from the gentle to the angry, the honest to the deceitful. By doing so, he encourages us to embrace the diversity of the human race, and to recognize the beauty and value in all of the different faces we encounter.
At the same time, however, Whitman is not blind to the many different emotions and motivations that can be seen in the human face. He acknowledges that there are hypocrites and thieves among us, and he recognizes the pain and suffering that can be reflected in the faces of the sick and the elderly. By doing so, he shows us the full range of human experience, and encourages us to be compassionate and understanding towards those who are struggling.
Ultimately, "Faces" is a poem that celebrates the complexity and richness of human experience. It encourages us to embrace the diversity of the human race, and to recognize the many different emotions and motivations that can be seen in the faces we encounter. By doing so, Whitman shows us the beauty and value of our shared humanity, and reminds us of the importance of compassion, empathy, and understanding.
In "Faces," Walt Whitman offers us a powerful and moving tribute to the many different faces that make up the world we live in. Through his vivid imagery and poetic language, he captures the complexity and richness of human experience, and encourages us to embrace the diversity of the human race. In doing so, he shows us the beauty and value of our shared humanity, and reminds us of the importance of compassion, empathy, and understanding. As we read this poem, we are reminded of the many different faces we encounter in our daily lives, and of the way that each of those faces reflects a unique and valuable human experience.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Faces: A Masterpiece by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and his work has inspired countless readers and writers around the world. Among his many masterpieces, "Poetry Faces" stands out as a shining example of his genius and his ability to capture the essence of human experience in words.
In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of "Poetry Faces," and examine how Whitman's unique style and perspective make this poem a timeless work of art.
The Themes of "Poetry Faces"
At its core, "Poetry Faces" is a meditation on the power of poetry to connect us to the world around us and to ourselves. Whitman begins the poem by describing the faces of the people he sees on the street, and how they reflect the different emotions and experiences that make up the human condition.
He then turns his attention to the faces of poets, and how they too reflect the diversity and complexity of human experience. He describes the "sad, sweet, and olden tales" that poets tell, and how they capture the joys and sorrows of life in their words.
Throughout the poem, Whitman emphasizes the importance of poetry as a means of understanding and connecting with the world. He suggests that poetry can help us to see the beauty in everyday life, to find meaning in our experiences, and to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way.
The Imagery of "Poetry Faces"
One of the most striking features of "Poetry Faces" is its vivid and evocative imagery. Whitman uses a wide range of sensory details to bring his words to life, and to create a rich and immersive experience for the reader.
For example, he describes the faces of the people he sees on the street in vivid detail, using words like "grimy," "sweaty," and "smiling" to convey the different emotions and experiences that he observes. He also uses sensory details like the "smell of the smoke of the factories" and the "sound of the steam-whistles" to create a vivid sense of place and atmosphere.
When he turns his attention to the faces of poets, Whitman uses similarly vivid imagery to capture the diversity and complexity of their experiences. He describes the "pale, thoughtful face" of the poet who writes of love, and the "wild, strange, defiant face" of the poet who writes of rebellion and revolution.
Throughout the poem, Whitman's use of imagery helps to create a sense of immediacy and intimacy, as if the reader is right there with him, experiencing the world through his eyes.
The Language of "Poetry Faces"
Another key feature of "Poetry Faces" is Whitman's use of language. His writing is characterized by its simplicity, directness, and clarity, and he uses a wide range of literary devices to create a sense of rhythm and musicality.
For example, he uses repetition to create a sense of momentum and energy, as in the lines "Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality, / The spiritual-prescient face, the always welcome common benevolent face."
He also uses alliteration and assonance to create a sense of musicality and harmony, as in the lines "The sad, sweet, and olden tales, and the ecstatic poems / The large calm lady, with the long, fair face, returning home from the party."
Throughout the poem, Whitman's language is both powerful and accessible, making it easy for readers to connect with his ideas and emotions.
The Style of "Poetry Faces"
Finally, we come to the style of "Poetry Faces," which is perhaps the most distinctive and memorable aspect of the poem. Whitman's style is characterized by its free verse structure, which allows him to break free from the constraints of traditional poetic forms and to create a sense of spontaneity and improvisation.
He also uses a distinctive voice, which is both personal and universal, speaking directly to the reader while also capturing the essence of human experience in all its diversity and complexity.
Whitman's style is also marked by his use of repetition, which creates a sense of rhythm and momentum, and his use of imagery, which creates a vivid and immersive experience for the reader.
In conclusion, "Poetry Faces" is a masterpiece of poetry, and a testament to Walt Whitman's genius as a writer and observer of the human experience. Through his vivid imagery, powerful language, and distinctive style, he captures the essence of poetry as a means of connecting us to the world and to ourselves.
Whether you are a lifelong fan of Whitman's work or are encountering it for the first time, "Poetry Faces" is a poem that is sure to inspire and move you, and to remind you of the power of poetry to capture the beauty and complexity of life.
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