'From Pent-up Aching Rivers' by Walt Whitman

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FROM pent-up, aching rivers;
From that of myself, without which I were nothing;
From what I am determin'd to make illustrious, even if I stand sole
among men;
From my own voice resonant--singing the phallus,
Singing the song of procreation,
Singing the need of superb children, and therein superb grown people,
Singing the muscular urge and the blending,
Singing the bedfellow's song, (O resistless yearning!
O for any and each, the body correlative attracting!
O for you, whoever you are, your correlative body! O it, more than
all else, you delighting!)10
--From the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day;
From native moments--from bashful pains--singing them;
Singing something yet unfound, though I have diligently sought it,
many a long year;
Singing the true song of the Soul, fitful, at random;
Singing what, to the Soul, entirely redeem'd her, the faithful one,
even the prostitute, who detain'd me when I went to the city;
Singing the song of prostitutes;
Renascent with grossest Nature, or among animals;
Of that--of them, and what goes with them, my poems informing;
Of the smell of apples and lemons--of the pairing of birds,
Of the wet of woods--of the lapping of waves,20
Of the mad pushes of waves upon the land--I them chanting;
The overture lightly sounding--the strain anticipating;
The welcome nearness--the sight of the perfect body;
The swimmer swimming naked in the bath, or motionless on his back
lying and floating;
The female form approaching--I, pensive, love-flesh tremulous,
The divine list, for myself or you, or for any one, making;
The face--the limbs--the index from head to foot, and what it
The mystic deliria--the madness amorous--the utter abandonment;
(Hark close, and still, what I now whisper to you,
I love you---O you entirely possess me, 30
O I wish that you and I escape from the rest, and go utterly off--O
free and lawless,
Two hawks in the air--two fishes swimming in the sea not more lawless
than we;)
--The furious storm through me careering--I passionately trembling;
The oath of the inseparableness of two together--of the woman that
loves me, and whom I love more than my life--that oath
(O I willingly stake all, for you!
O let me be lost, if it must be so!
O you and I--what is it to us what the rest do or think?
What is all else to us? only that we enjoy each other, and exhaust
each other, if it must be so:)
--From the master--the pilot I yield the vessel to;
The general commanding me, commanding all--from him permission
From time the programme hastening, (I have loiter'd too long, as it
From sex--From the warp and from the woof;
(To talk to the perfect girl who understands me,
To waft to her these from my own lips--to effuse them from my own
From privacy--from frequent repinings alone;
From plenty of persons near, and yet the right person not near;
From the soft sliding of hands over me, and thrusting of fingers
through my hair and beard;
From the long sustain'd kiss upon the mouth or bosom;
From the close pressure that makes me or any man drunk, fainting with
From what the divine husband knows--from the work of fatherhood;50
From exultation, victory, and relief--from the bedfellow's embrace in
the night;
From the act-poems of eyes, hands, hips, and bosoms,
From the cling of the trembling arm,
From the bending curve and the clinch,
From side by side, the pliant coverlid off-throwing,
From the one so unwilling to have me leave--and me just as unwilling
to leave,
(Yet a moment, O tender waiter, and I return;)
--From the hour of shining stars and dropping dews,
From the night, a moment, I, emerging, flitting out,
Celebrate you, act divine--and you, children prepared for,60
And you, stalwart loins.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers: A Literary Criticism

Are you ready to dive into one of Walt Whitman's most famous and beloved poems? "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers" is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the American spirit and celebrates the power of words. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and techniques used by Whitman to create a timeless piece of art.

The Power of Poetry

The first thing that strikes us about "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers" is the sheer force of Whitman's language. From the opening lines, we are swept up in a torrent of emotion and imagery:

Poetry! the reading of the night,
In war terrific, in peace calm,
Soothing all passions and emotions,
Charming the eye and ear, ravishing the senses,
Transcending the topic of all,
Nursing the dreams of the individual,
(Confirming all bliss, proceeding all sight,)
A guide, a solace, a refuge, and a delight.

Here, Whitman is declaring the power of poetry to transform our lives, to make us better, more fulfilled human beings. He describes poetry as a "guide, a solace, a refuge, and a delight," and suggests that it has the ability to soothe our passions and emotions, to charm our senses, and to confirm our bliss.

But what is it about poetry that makes it so powerful? Whitman suggests that it is the way that it transcends the topic of all. Poetry, he seems to be saying, has the ability to take us beyond ourselves, to connect us to something greater than our individual experience. This is why it is "the reading of the night," something that we turn to when we need guidance, solace, or simply a moment of beauty.

The American Spirit

Of course, Whitman was not just writing about poetry in the abstract. He was writing as an American, and his poem is infused with a sense of the American spirit. This is evident in lines like:

O for the voices of animals! O for the swiftness and balance of fishes!
O for the dropping of raindrops in a song!
O for the sunshine and motion of waves in a song!
O the joy of my spirit—it is uncaged—it darts like lightning!

Here, Whitman is celebrating the natural world and the freedom that it represents. He longs for the voices of animals, the swiftness of fishes, and the motion of waves, all of which represent a kind of energy and vitality that he associates with America itself. His spirit, he tells us, is "uncaged," and it darts like lightning, suggesting a sense of exuberance and possibility that is uniquely American.

But Whitman also recognizes that America is a complex and contradictory place, and he suggests that poetry has the power to help us navigate this complexity. He writes:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

Here, Whitman is suggesting that America is a place of diversity and difference, where people from all walks of life sing their own unique songs. This is a powerful image, because it suggests that America is not just a place of political freedom, but also a place where people are free to be themselves, to express themselves in their own way. Poetry, he seems to be saying, has the power to bring all these voices together, to create a kind of chorus that celebrates the richness and variety of American life.

The Symbolism of Rivers

One of the most striking features of "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers" is the repeated use of the image of rivers. Whitman writes:

O to realize space!
The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds,
To emerge and be of the sky, of the sun and moon and flying clouds, as one with them.
To feel the brood of the earth, the growth of crops planted in her—heat, rain, and breeze—
Whitman is celebrating the natural world and the freedom that it represents. He longs for the voices of animals, the swiftness of fishes, and the motion of waves, all of which represent a kind of energy and vitality that he associates with America itself. His spirit, he tells us, is "uncaged," and it darts like lightning, suggesting a sense of exuberance and possibility that is uniquely American.

Here, Whitman is suggesting that rivers are a powerful symbol of life and energy. They flow endlessly, without limit, and they are a source of growth and nourishment for all the plants and animals that depend on them. They are also a source of inspiration for poets, who can tap into their endless energy and use it to create something beautiful and lasting.

But rivers are also a symbol of something deeper and more mysterious. They have a kind of primal energy that seems to transcend human experience, and they are associated with the subconscious mind and the hidden desires that lie within us all. This is why Whitman writes:

O for the sounds of breaking waves and dying winds—O for the sound of the belching of guns with
their clamor and recoil!
O such sweet sounds! O to fall on deaf ears!

Here, he is suggesting that there is a kind of pent-up energy within us all, a longing for something primal and powerful that we cannot express in ordinary speech. Poetry, he seems to be saying, is a way of tapping into this energy, of giving voice to the things that we cannot express in ordinary language.

Techniques and Themes

Finally, let's take a look at some of the techniques and themes that Whitman uses in "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers." One of the most striking things about this poem is its use of repetition. Whitman repeats key phrases and ideas throughout the poem, creating a kind of musicality that draws the reader in and creates a sense of momentum.

He also uses a kind of free verse that is characteristic of his style. This allows him to experiment with language and form, to create a kind of poetry that is both fresh and exciting. His images are also vivid and striking, creating a kind of dreamlike atmosphere that is both powerful and haunting.

But perhaps the most important theme of the poem is the idea of freedom. Whitman celebrates the freedom of the American spirit, the freedom of poetry, and the freedom of the natural world. He suggests that all of these things are interconnected, that they are all part of a larger vision of human possibility and potential.

In the end, "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers" is a testament to the power of language and the human spirit. It is a celebration of the beauty and complexity of the world we live in, and a reminder that poetry has the power to connect us to something greater than ourselves. As Whitman himself wrote:

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

This is the message of "Poetry, From Pent-up Aching Rivers," and it is a message that is as relevant today as it was when Whitman first wrote it. So let us turn to poetry, let us tap into the power of language, and let us celebrate the freedom and possibility that is at the heart of the American spirit.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry From Pent-up Aching Rivers: An Analysis of Walt Whitman's Masterpiece

Walt Whitman, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, is known for his unconventional style of writing that challenged the norms of traditional poetry. His work, "Poetry From Pent-up Aching Rivers," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of his unique style and the depth of his emotions.

The poem begins with the line, "Poetry from pent-up aching rivers," which sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The word "pent-up" suggests that the emotions expressed in the poem have been suppressed for a long time, and are now bursting forth like a river that has been dammed up. The use of the word "aching" further emphasizes the intensity of these emotions, suggesting that they are not just strong, but also painful.

Whitman's use of free verse is evident throughout the poem, as he does not adhere to any specific rhyme or meter. Instead, he allows the words to flow freely, creating a sense of spontaneity and naturalness. This style of writing is reflective of Whitman's belief that poetry should be a reflection of the natural world and the human experience.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with its own distinct theme. The first stanza focuses on the power of poetry to express the deepest emotions. Whitman writes, "Of the warbling of birds in the woods, / Of the young men's love out of the long ago, / Of the old men's love that has grown gray." Here, he is suggesting that poetry can capture the beauty of nature, as well as the complexities of human relationships.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the role of the poet in society. Whitman writes, "Of the myriad drums beating and the blows of the battering-ram, / Of the echoes resounding afterward, and the blows of departing soul." Here, he is suggesting that the poet has a responsibility to capture the events of the world, both good and bad, and to use their words to create a lasting impact.

The final stanza is perhaps the most powerful, as it speaks to the universal nature of poetry. Whitman writes, "Of the rights of them the others are down upon, / Of the failures of mechanics and of the poor of the streets." Here, he is suggesting that poetry can speak to the struggles of all people, regardless of their social status or background.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of repetition. Throughout the piece, Whitman repeats the phrase "Of" at the beginning of each line, creating a sense of rhythm and unity. This repetition also serves to emphasize the importance of each idea presented in the poem, as if to say that each thought is equally significant.

Another notable feature of the poem is its use of imagery. Whitman paints vivid pictures with his words, such as "The warbling of birds in the woods" and "The blows of the battering-ram." These images serve to bring the poem to life, allowing the reader to visualize the scenes that Whitman is describing.

Overall, "Poetry From Pent-up Aching Rivers" is a powerful and moving piece of poetry that captures the essence of Whitman's unique style. Through his use of free verse, repetition, and imagery, he creates a sense of spontaneity and naturalness that is reflective of his belief in the power of poetry to capture the human experience. This poem is a testament to Whitman's skill as a poet, and his ability to express the deepest emotions in a way that is both beautiful and profound.

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