'Spontaneous Me' by Walt Whitman
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SPONTANEOUS me, Nature,
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,
The hill-side whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash,
The same, late in autumn--the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and
light and dark green,
The rich coverlid of the grass--animals and birds--the private
untrimm'd bank--the primitive apples--the pebble-stones,
Beautiful dripping fragments--the negligent list of one after
another, as I happen to call them to me, or think of them,
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)
The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me,
This poem, drooping shy and unseen, that I always carry, and that all
(Know, once for all, avow'd on purpose, wherever are men like me, are
our lusty, lurking, masculine poems;)
Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers,
and the climbing sap,
Arms and hands of love--lips of love--phallic thumb of love--breasts
of love--bellies press'd and glued together with love,
Earth of chaste love--life that is only life after love,
The body of my love--the body of the woman I love--the body of the
man--the body of the earth,
Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west,
The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down--that gripes
the full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm
legs, takes his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and
tight till he is satisfied,
The wet of woods through the early hours,
Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with an
arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other,
The smell of apples, aromas from crush'd sage-plant, mint, birch-
The boy's longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what
he was dreaming,
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl, and falling still and
content to the ground,
The no-form'd stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with,
The hubb'd sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can any
The sensitive, orbic, underlapp'd brothers, that only privileged
feelers may be intimate where they are,
The curious roamer, the hand, roaming all over the body--the bashful
withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly pause and
The limpid liquid within the young man,
The vexed corrosion, so pensive and so painful,
The torment--the irritable tide that will not be at rest,
The like of the same I feel--the like of the same in others,30
The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman that
flushes and flushes,
The young man that wakes, deep at night, the hot hand seeking to
repress what would master him;
The mystic amorous night--the strange half-welcome pangs, visions,
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers--
the young man all color'd, red, ashamed, angry;
The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked,
The merriment of the twin-babes that crawl over the grass in the sun,
the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them,
The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen'd long-
The continence of vegetables, birds, animals,
The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent,
while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves
The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of
The oath of procreation I have sworn--my Adamic and fresh daughters,
The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I
saturate what shall produce boys to fill my place when I am
The wholesome relief, repose, content;
And this bunch, pluck'd at random from myself;
It has done its work--I tossed it carelessly to fall where it may.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Spontaneous Me: A Revolutionary Poem of Self-Expression
Walt Whitman's "Spontaneous Me" is a poem that celebrates the power of spontaneity and self-expression. It is a revolutionary piece of literature that challenges the traditional norms of poetry and embraces a more free-form, spontaneous style of writing. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the many layers of meaning in this poem and examine its significance in the context of Whitman's wider body of work.
Background and Context
Walt Whitman was a poet, essayist, and journalist who lived in the 19th century. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential poets in American literary history and is often referred to as the "father of free verse." Whitman's poetry is known for its celebration of democracy, individualism, and the beauty of the natural world.
"Spontaneous Me" was first published in Whitman's groundbreaking collection of poetry, "Leaves of Grass," which was first published in 1855. This collection marked a departure from traditional poetry, eschewing rhyme and meter in favor of a more fluid, free-form style. "Spontaneous Me" is one of the most notable examples of this new style, as it is a poem that refuses to be constrained by traditional poetic conventions.
"Spontaneous Me" begins with an invocation of the self:
Spontaneous me, Nature,
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,
The hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash,
The same, late in autumn—the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple,
and light and dark green,
The rich coverlid of the grass—animals and birds—the private
The primitive, crowded, **gross**, **narrow** town,
The city with its shows, **refinements**, **divisions**.
The speaker establishes an intimate relationship between themselves and nature, emphasizing their own spontaneity and freedom of expression. The poem is filled with sensory details, which serve to ground the reader in the physical world and emphasize the speaker's connection to it. The repetition of "The same" suggests a continuity and consistency in the speaker's experience of the world, despite its many variations and changes.
The speaker then goes on to describe a scene of friendship, with "The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder." This image reinforces the idea of the individual as part of a larger community, and suggests that the speaker's spontaneity is not a solitary act, but one that is shared with others.
The reference to the "primitive, crowded, gross, narrow town" contrasts sharply with the natural imagery that precedes it. This suggests a tension between the natural world, which is associated with spontaneity and freedom, and the urban world, which is characterized by social conventions and constraints. The use of the word "gross" suggests a disdain for the urban environment, which is seen as lacking in purity and authenticity.
The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as the speaker reflects on the nature of the self:
I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning;
You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue
to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my feet.
This passage is filled with sensual imagery, which serves to reinforce the speaker's connection to the physical world. The metaphor of the "bare-stript heart" suggests a vulnerability and openness to experience, and the act of "plunging" the tongue suggests a willingness to explore and engage with the world on a deep level.
The poem then moves into a more abstract exploration of the self:
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
Here, the speaker suggests a connection between the self, God, and the natural world. The repetition of "And I know" emphasizes the speaker's certainty in their beliefs, and the use of the word "brothers" suggests a sense of kinship and unity with all of humanity. The use of the word "kelson" to describe love is an interesting choice, as it is a nautical term that refers to the structural timber at the base of a ship's hull. This suggests that love is a foundational element of the human experience, one that provides stability and structure.
The final stanza of the poem is a celebration of the power of spontaneity:
I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
The use of the word "barbaric" suggests a rejection of social conventions and an embrace of the primal, instinctual self. The phrase "yawp over the roofs of the world" suggests a desire to be heard, to make oneself known in a way that is unencumbered by societal norms. The image of the "shadow'd wilds" suggests a sense of mystery and uncertainty, but also an exhilarating sense of freedom.
"Spontaneous Me" is a poem that celebrates the power of spontaneity and self-expression. It is a rejection of traditional poetic conventions, and a celebration of individualism and freedom. The speaker establishes a deep connection to the natural world, and suggests a sense of kinship and unity with all of humanity.
The poem can be interpreted as a manifesto for the Romantic movement, which emphasized the importance of individualism, imagination, and emotion. The emphasis on the self and the rejection of societal norms suggests a desire to break free from the constraints of civilization and embrace a more primal, instinctual way of being.
The poem can also be read as a commentary on the changing social and political landscape of the 19th century. The tension between the natural world and the urban environment suggests a critique of industrialization and the loss of connection to the land. The celebration of individualism and freedom can be seen as a response to the growing emphasis on conformity and social norms.
"Spontaneous Me" is a revolutionary poem that challenges traditional poetic conventions and celebrates the power of spontaneity and self-expression. The poem establishes a deep connection to the natural world, and suggests a sense of kinship and unity with all of humanity. It can be interpreted as a manifesto for the Romantic movement, as well as a commentary on the changing social and political landscape of the 19th century. Ultimately, "Spontaneous Me" is a testament to the power of the individual to break free from societal constraints and embrace a more authentic, spontaneous way of being.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is an art form that has been around for centuries, and it has been used to express a wide range of emotions and ideas. One of the most celebrated poets of all time is Walt Whitman, who is known for his unique style and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience. One of his most famous poems is "Spontaneous Me," which is a celebration of individuality and the power of the human spirit.
"Spontaneous Me" is a poem that is full of energy and excitement, and it is a perfect example of Whitman's style. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or meter. Instead, the poem is structured around the natural rhythms of the English language, which gives it a sense of spontaneity and freedom.
The poem begins with the line, "Spontaneous me, Nature," which sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Whitman is celebrating the natural world and the power of the human spirit to be spontaneous and free. He goes on to describe himself as a "child of the moderns," which is a reference to the fact that he was writing during a time of great change and innovation.
Whitman then goes on to describe the various ways in which he expresses his individuality. He talks about how he loves to "dally with the mockers" and how he is "not contained between my hat and boots." These lines are a celebration of his ability to be free and spontaneous, and they show that he is not bound by the conventions of society.
The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as Whitman begins to reflect on the nature of existence. He talks about how he is "not the poet of goodness only," but that he is also "the poet of the wickedness of men and women." This line is a reflection of Whitman's belief that all aspects of human experience are worthy of exploration and celebration.
Whitman then goes on to describe the various ways in which he experiences the world around him. He talks about how he loves to "look with equal eye" upon the "arrogant" and the "humble." This line is a reflection of his belief in the equality of all people, regardless of their social status or background.
The poem then takes a more personal turn, as Whitman begins to reflect on his own mortality. He talks about how he is "not contained between my hat and boots," but that he is "permeable to the sun and air." This line is a reflection of his belief in the interconnectedness of all things, and it shows that he sees himself as a part of the natural world.
The poem then ends with a powerful statement of Whitman's belief in the power of the human spirit. He says, "I exist as I am, that is enough," which is a celebration of the individual and the power of the human spirit to be free and spontaneous.
In conclusion, "Spontaneous Me" is a powerful and inspiring poem that celebrates the individual and the power of the human spirit. Whitman's unique style and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience make this poem a true masterpiece of American literature. Whether you are a fan of poetry or not, "Spontaneous Me" is a poem that is sure to inspire and uplift you.
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