Posted by: jessicaa | 22nd Dec, 2009

Whitman Video Reading

With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea!

WITH husky-haughty lips, O sea!
Where day and night I wend thy surf-beat shore,
Imaging to my sense thy varied strange suggestions,
(I see and plainly list thy talk and conference here,)
Thy troops of white-maned racers racing to the goal,
Thy ample, smiling face, dash’d with the sparkling dimples of the
Thy brooding scowl and murk – thy unloos’d hurricanes,
Thy unsubduedness, caprices, wilfulness;
Great as thou art above the rest, thy many tears-a lack from all
eternity in thy content,
(Naught but the greatest struggles, wrongs, defeats, could make thee
greatest – no less could make thee,)
Thy lonely state – something thou ever seekist and seekist, yet never
Surely some right withheld-some voice, in huge monotonous rage, of
freedom-lover pent,
Some vast heart, like a planet’s, chain’d and chafing in those
By lengthen’d swell, and spasm, and panting breath,
And rhythmic rasping of thy sands and waves,
And serpent hiss, and savage peals of laughter,
And undertones of distant lion roar,
(Sounding, appealing to the sky’s deaf ear-but now, rapport for
A phantom in the night thy confidant for once,)
The first and last confession of the globe,
Outsurging, muttering from thy soul’s abysms,
The tale of cosmic elemental passion,
Thou tellest to a kindred soul.

Posted by: jessicaa | 11th Dec, 2009

Whitman Found: But My Videos Reading Isn’t

My video readings won’t upload and I’m going to freak out soon!  Someone help me, they are uploaded in quicktime and itunes and everytime I try to upload them it says that the videos don’t meet security guidelines, which I don’t understand.  I sent them to my lap top via bluetooth, does that mean anything to anyone?

Posted by: jessicaa | 2nd Dec, 2009

Visitor’s Center Script

       Although Walt Whitman is now a highly respected and acclaimed writer, he was writing during a time that was very different to today’s society.  His thoughts on democracy, spirituality, and sexuality were massively forward thinking for their time, but were also highly influential.  Those who had a positive reaction to Whitman’s work went on to use his ideas to create new works of poetry and prose that attempted to influence society in the manner in which Whitman intended.  Two of these individuals are Dr. Richard M. Bucke (R.M. Bucke) and Edward Carpenter. 

            R.M. Bucke was a Canadian psychiatrist who greatly admired Whitman.  He was the author of Whitman’s biography, and also wrote many other works including Man’s Moral Nature and Cosmic Consciousness. The ideas in Bucke’s writing were heavily inspired by Whitman’s work, which can be seen when assessing the passages of Bucke’s prose.  In his article “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman” S.E.D. Shortt says of Bucke, “his ideas, he believed, simply derived from years of empirical study of Walt Whitman’s character and his principal work, ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Indeed, Bucke correctly saw a continuity in his scholarship to which the notion of cosmic consciousness was merely the logical capstone” (Shortt 56).  Bucke believed that through his study of Whitman, and his understanding of Whitman’s philosophy, his own writings were adding to the same body of work, and were furthering the influence of these ideas onto society. 

            Bucke was part of a group of scholars who would gather to enjoy many esteemed authors, including Browing, Wordsworth, and specifically Whitman.  In Bucke’s book Cosmic Consciousness he recounts one such gathering where, after leaving, he had an experience of absolute transcendence which he attributes to the recollection of Whitman’s work.  Shortt quotes the experience as follows:

“…Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash

of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon

his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for

                        always an after taste of heaven. Among other things he did not come

to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but

a living Presence, that the soul of man is inmortal, that the universe

is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work

together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle

of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone

is in the long run absolutely certain…” (Shortt 56-57).


              The ideas that all things in the universe work together for the good of everything is exactly the same idea that Whitman conveys in many of his works, specifically Leaves of Grass. In “Song of Myself” Whitman says, “I resist anything better than my own diversity, and breathe the air and leave plenty after me, and am not stuck up, and am in my place.  The moth and the fisheggs are in their place, the suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place, The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place” (Whitman 43).  The idea here is that all of these things have their role in the universe, and that all of these parts make up the living breathing thing that is the universe.  This idea is exactly what Bucke was expanding upon in Cosmic Consciousness, in attempt to influence social thought on spirituality and the nature of man.  In Part I of Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness he wrote, ““that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain” (Bucke in Shortt).  Bucke was trying to further pass on to society the ideas from Whitman’s work that inspired him.   

              However Bucke was not the only writer at this time so powerfully influenced by Whitman.  At the same time Edward Carpenter was also enamored with Whitman’s philosophies, and after meeting with Whitman on several occasions Carpenter recorded his experiences and published Days with Walt Whitman.  Carpenter was influenced by Whitman’s ideas of democracy, as well as his social and spiritual claims, and went on to publish a book titled Towards Democracy, which was a collection of poems expanding on Whitman’s ideas of democracy and equality.  In this piece Carpenter writes, “Freedom! At Last! Long sought, long prayed for – ages and ages long..”  (Carpenter 3).  Many of the poems speak of democracy in much the same positive light as Whitman does.  As influenced by Whitman, Carpenter’s writings on “sexuality, religion, aesthetics, and a range of political topics won him international renown as a progressive thinker” (jrank).  Carpenter became an active speaker on social issues such as environmental rights and women’s suffrage.  Openly homosexual, Carpenter was inspired by Whitman to speak out about his sexual preferences and be an example for society.  “In his emulation of Whitman, Carpenter became one of the first of many disciples, spreading Whitman’s message into another country and another century” (Kantrowitz).

                     It can be seen that Whitman had a very strong effect on Bucke and Carpenter, and many other writers who came after.  Whitman’s philosophies of religion, democracy, sexuality, and social interactions paved the way for many other writers to write openly about social issues that were not commonly explored.  Both of these writers were so inspired they not only wrote on similar topics as Whitman, but wrote about Whitman himself, which further shows their respect and admiration for Whitman as a poet, and as a social influence. 


Works Cited


Carpenter, Edward. “Towards Democracy”.  Kessinger Publishing, LLC (May 31, 1942)


Kantrowitz, Arnie. “Carpenter, Edward [1844-1929]”.  J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.


Shortt, S.E.D.  “The myth of a Canadian Boswell: Dr. R.M. Bucke and Walt Whitman”.  Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, Vol 1, No 1 (1984)


Whitman, Walt.  “Whitman: Poetry and Prose”. Penguin Books USA Inc. 1996. Literary

Classics of The United States, Inc. New York, N.Y.


Edward Carpenter Biography – (1844–1929), Days with Walt Whitman, Towards Democracy, England’s Ideal


Posted by: jessicaa | 9th Nov, 2009

Jessica for Nov. 10th

In Whitman’s Second Annex: Good-bye My Fancy, it appears that Whitman is waiting to die, and moreover is completely accepting and ready for death.  Throughout much of his poetry and has spoke of the universe and everything’s interconnectedness, both of space and time.  Therefore, Whitman is not afraid of death because he is quite assured that it is merely the next journey within the inifinity of the universe. 

He begins this grouping with the poem “Sail Out for Good, Eidolon Yacht!” saying, “Now on for aye our infinite free venture wending, Spurning all yet tired ports, seas, hawsers, densities, gravitation, Sail out for good, eidolon yacht of me!”.  Whitman is ready to leave his “solid earth” form, and make his way into his infinite existence.  His annotation of “Good-bye” says, “Behind a Good-bye there lurks much of the salutation of another begining – to me, Development, Continuity, Immortality, Transformation, are the chiefest life-meanings of Nature and Humanity, and are the sine qua non of all facts, and each fact”.  He doesnt see “Good-bye” as a term of departing, but as a salutation of another beginning. 

Sine qua non (pronounced as anglicized /ˌsaɪni kweɪ ˈnɒn/ or more Latinate /ˌsɪneɪ kwɑː ˈnoʊn/)[1] or conditio sine qua non (plural sine quibus non) was originally a Latin legal term for “(a condition) without which it could not be” or “but for…” or “without which (there is) nothing.” It refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.

                                                                                                From Wikipedia

His use of sine qua non suggests that development, continuity, immortality, and transformation are all essential actions, conditions, or ingredients of death, and that these qualities are all important for all of life and nature. 

Whitman is not afraid of death because he is “wafting to other work, to unknown songs, conditions…”.  It is refreshing to read poetry from someone who has such a positive outlook on aging and death.  So many poets write about the sadness that comes from the death of innoncence and the move to experience.  Whitman, however, seems to beleive that life is all about the experience,  “My life and recitative, containing birth, youth, mid-age years …  inseparably twined and merged in one — combining all”.  Whitman acknowledges that every part of his life is important in its completion of the whole, just as everything in the universe is important as its part of the whole. 

Whitman clearly embraces his old age, and in his other footnote he says, “I always felt the sunset or late afternoon sounds more penetrating and sweeter – seem’d to touch the soul – often the evening thrushes, two or three of them, responding and perhaps blending.  Though I miss’d some of the mornings, I found myself getting to be quite strictly punctual at the evening utterances”.  It seems that Whitman is using his love of the sunset as a symbol for his love and acceptance of his age.  Although he misses some aspects of his youth as “the first always exhilarated, and perhaps seem’d more joyous and stronger”,  he has a greater appreciation for what it is to age and is accepting of it.  His use of nature as a metaphor for life is not the same cliche we’ve all heard before, but a lovely way to appreciate all aspects of one’s life, and not to obsess over the past and over the loss of youth and strength. 

That being said, Whitman does have a sympathy for those who die before reaching old age.  Although Whitman sees death as the next part of the journey which he is quite ready for, he does have compassion for those who must meet death before thier time.  This seems to come mostly from his time spent with the soldiers in the hospital.  Whitman says that “wrapt in these little potencies of progress, poitics, culture, wealth, inventions, civilization” we forget about death.  And, it seems he is saying we not only forget about death but forget about those who died so that we may have all those things. 

Finally, in “Unseen Buds” Whitman wants to show the reader that although we must die, the budding of life is all around us, and that is inspiring.  ” On earth and in the sea – the universe – the stars there in the heavens” there are unseen buds of life “urging slowly, surely forward, forming endless, andwaiting ever more, forever more behind”.

Posted by: jessicaa | 2nd Nov, 2009

Jessica for Nov. 5th

The section “Songs of Parting” brings Whitman’s poetry full circle from “Song of Myself”.  “Song of Myself” centers around learning to love ones self, and understand one’s part in the universe as an important part of the whole chain of being.  Here Whitman begins by saying that when one finally finds himself, it is his time to go onto to the next stage of being. 

Whitman speaks about America, and Europe, and how technology has made the world a smaller place and that hopefully it will help to unite the world, to unite all of mankind.  “With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, the wholesale engines of war, With these and the world-spreading factories he interlinks all geography, all lands; What whispers are these O lands, running ahead of you, passing under the seas? Are all nations communing? is there going to be but one heart to the globe?”  Just as Whitman loves America, and decomcracy, and the unity of all different types of men within one country, Whiman loves the different men of every country.  Starting with the unity of America, Whitman hopes that this unity can spread across the globe and unite the people of the world. 

Like in “Song of Myself”, here Whitman also looks at all of the splendor of life.  “Wonderful to depart!  Wonderful to be here! The heart, to jet the all-alike and innocent blood! To breathe the air, how delicious! To speak – to walk – to seize something by the hand! To prepare for sleep, for bed, to look on my rose color’d flesh! To be concious of my body, so satisfied, so large! To be this incredible God I am! To have gone forth among other Gods, these men and women I love!”  Whitman seems a bit more humbled here, and is appreciative of all the little things in life that make us human, that bind us all.  He goes on to appreciate all of the workings of nature and the world, and says, “For I do not see one imperfection in the universe, And I do not see one cause or result lamentable at last in the universe”.  As in “Song of Myself”, every part of the universe is beautiful and important. 

Although many of the same ideas flow through Whitman’s poetry, the changes that Whitman has gone through are subtly apparent.  Although he is expressing much of the same ideas, the same love of mankind, and America, and nature, he seems much more humbled in these peoms, wiser and more cautious with his words.  He is not writing to get a reaction, or to call people to arms, or to stir the fire, he is simply passing on his love of life, nature, and mankind through the recollection of his experiences throughout his life.  It seems as though Whitman feels that the world is moving in the right direction, and that mankind needs to embrace the benefits of change, and understand that the universe is a living being that cannot be stopped, but must be accepted and appreciated.

Posted by: jessicaa | 15th Oct, 2009

Jessica for October 20th

 Clearly Whitman is expressing his love of nature in the passages between pages 803 and 874.  I thought all of his imagery was wonderfully depicted, and his words put me right there next to him.  I loved how he went through an entire year of the different seasons, and the things that signify each season for Whitman.  Having grown up in the North East myself,  I could relate with so many of the images Whitman was explaining, and was travelling with him through the beauty and symbolism that every season represents.   

However, I think what was really great for me as an active reader in these poems was all of the sounds that Whitman was describing.  He talks about the swarming bees in the summertime.  In the fall he observes  the racing squirrel, reading himself for the winter.  “No sound but the cawing of crows… their incessant cawing, far or near”, say Whitman.  When Whitman travels to the Jersey Shore he says, “in sight of the ocean, listening to its hoarse murmur”, “with the ocean perpetual, grandly, rolling in upon it, with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and hiss and foam, and many a thump as of low bass drums” .  In the winter he takes a boat across the Delaware back to Camden and says “The ice, sometimes in hummocks, sometimes floating fields,  through which the boat goes crunching” .  The following piece is called “Spring Overtures-Recreations, and it begins, “The first chirping, almost singing, of a bird today.  Then I noticed a couple of honey-bees spiriting and humming about the open window in the sun…..The owl….. too-oo-oo-oo-oo”. 

I could really go on and on and on with all of the imagery of sound that Whitman provides throughout these poems.  Whitman uses sounds to differentiate every season.  These poems are so audible, and touch me on such a personal level.  All of these sounds are familiar to me, and all of them take me to a different place in my life. 

For me, I think the most vivid sound, and one which Whitman describes, is that of the cicadas.  As long as I can remember the sound of the cicadas has been the soundtrack of my summers.  As Spring gets warmer and warmer, and school comes to an end, I always knew summer was approaching.  But, the sound of the cicadas is the sound of summer.  That first scorching hot day when you’re outside playing kickball and you hear the cicadas singing, you know that it truly is summer.

When I was in Thailand I stayed in a remote village outside of Chiang Mai.  A bit more than a dozen of us, both locals and travelers made up the entire population of this hilltop village, where we sat around a fire smoking and listening to the one villager play hotel California over and over again on his guitar, because it was seemingly the only song he knew, when another native came over holding a cicada.  He then proceeded to put the cicada in his mouth, and hold its wings between his teeth as the cicada sang its song.  It may have been the craziest thing I have ever seen, and I think Whitman would have loved it, because it is probably as close to nature as one can ever get.  The guy playing the guitar was no competition for the guy playing the cicada. 

cicadas sound

Posted by: jessicaa | 15th Oct, 2009

Whitman’s Missing Notebooks and The Cardboard Butterfly



butterfly 2

Photo Credit: Library of Congres Archives

     After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. boxed up nearly 5,000 crates of historical documents, including the Walt Whitman Archives, and sent them to different areas for safekeeping until the war ended.  Upon their return it appeared that one of the crates had been penetrated, and ten of Walt Whitman’s notebooks and his cardboard butterfly were missing.  Donated in 1918, the collection consists of poetry and prose manuscripts, letters, notes and notebooks, proofs, etc, written by Whitman throughout his literary career. 

     February 24, 1995 four of the notebooks and the cardboard butterfly were returned when a young man brought them to Sotheby’s to be appraised, claiming they were from his father’s estate.  These notebooks are still quite a mystery, as six of the ten are still missing.  However, since the recovery of the first four and the cardboard butterfly, their images have been scanned in order to preserve them, and have been made available online through the Library of Congress.

   These notebooks and the cardboard butterfly are vastly  important to the literarytitle page world.  “It is safe to estimate that Whitman created at least one hundred notebooks of greatly varying sizes and descriptions” (Birney).  Whitman had many notebooks, some hand crafted and small enough to fit in his pack, which he used on a regular basis throughout his career to jot down parts of his poetry and prose, and to remember experiences vividly that he wanted to use to recapture in later poems.  The contents of the notebooks are quite valuable and historically important because they are the hand written notes from the poet himself.  Many of the notes are written by Whitman during his Civil War years, including “cryptic observations on life on the battlefield and death in Civil War hospitals, and detailed notes such as a reporter would make for later reference”(Fineberg). 

     Deemed the father of free verse, these notebooks are so important because one can see jus t by looking at the pages how much Whitman revised, worked, and re-worked, crossed out, and added to his own work.  The mastery of his genius can be seen through his constant revisions, and how every word of his work was toiled over until he deemed it fit.  These notebooks contain notes of wounded soldier’s needs, which he used to create his prose work on the Civil War.  Alice L. Birney, an American literature specialist in the Manuscript division said of the notebooks, “These notebooks are the primary record of the poet’s very early career, while he was a journalist (during the 1840s), and during his years in Washington while he was a volunteer nurse in the Civil War” (Fineberg).  whitman requests 2The importance of these notes can be seen when reading Whitman’s prose of the Civil War, and the stories he provides of the soldiers and their wants.  “In these he noted what treats a soldier might like on the next visit — raspberry syrup, rice-pudding, notepaper and pencil — or notes and addresses of family to whom Whitman would then write in place of the gravely wounded or dead young man. Occasionally he would also describe scenes on the battle-field, probably from reports from others in the camps” (Birney).  When one reads Whitman’s prose he sees the story told of the soldier who craved rice-pudding, and  how Whitman’s recounts writing letters for the soldiers to send home.  It is interesting to see how his prose developed from the simple notes he collected from his war-time experiences, to the moving tales he prints later.


     Moreover, the notebooks also contain the early workings of “Song Of Myself”.  In Fineberg’s article she says that Sotheby’s claims, “the more important of the four recovered notebooks  is the earliest, dated 1847, which contains about 47 small leaves densely written in pencil with aphorism, observations, and extensively revised poetry, including early drafts of “Song of Myself”. 

      Through these drafts we can see Whitman’s different techniques in revising his poetry, and we can see visually how his poetry unfolded, from first drafts, to revisions, to the final versions that are still being printed today. 

     As far as the cardboard butterfly is concerned, its recovery is equally as important as the recovery of the notebooks.  Whitman liked to portray himself as one with nature.  Whitman clearly had a fondness for butterflies, as seen in the photos of Whitman holding his hand out with a butterfly perched upon his finger. “He used the butterfly-on-hand as a recurring motif in his books and intended for this photo to be reproduced as the frontispiece in this sample proof of Leaves from 1891” (Curtis).

with butterfly

Photo Credit: Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress

      Whitman claimed the butterfly was real.  “Yes–that was an actual moth,” he told Traubel; “the picture is substantially literal: we were good friends: I had quite the in-and-out of taming, or fraternizing with, some of the insects, animals.” Whitman told the historian William Roscoe Thayer, “I’ve always had the knack of attracting birds and butterflies and other wild critters” (Folsome and Genoways).  Although it is known that the butterfly was actually cardboard, as seen above, it is quite important to note Whitman’s attachment to nature and the physical world.

     It is interesting to wonder what the impact of “Leaves of Grass” would have been had this been the frontispiece for the collection. As much as Whitman does explicate his love of nature and the physical world in parts of the collection, the major theme seems to be his love of humanity, America, and the unity of man. One wonders what the perception of the collection of poetry would have been had he used the above image in place of the picture that was used.

     Printed on the cardboard butterfly is a hymn written by John Mason Neale, and on the opposing side is a vibrant coloring of the insect.  The hymn bears no significance to Whitman’s poetry, and is merely a prop used for his photograph.  It has been remarked that the believability of Whitman’s comment is non-existent, since he is sitting in a smoking jacket in an indoor studio, where the occurrence of a butterfly just passing through and landing on Whitman’s hand is unlikely.    However, it is clear that the poet had a fondness for both photography and nature, and wanted his love of nature to be shown through the photo.  Whether the butterfly was real or not is trivial when compared to the impact Whitman had through his poetry and through this photo.  Still being displayed today, and being seen as a thing of value for the Library of Congress, Whitman’s cardboard butterfly and the notebooks that it resides with are clearly of great value to the scholarly world. 



 Works Cited

Birney, Alice L. “About Whitman’s Notebooks”.  Library of Congress Manuscript Division.                         . 

Taylor, W. Curtis. “Whitman with Butterfly, 1877,”

Albumen photograph frontispiece in sample proof of Leaves of Grass, 1891. Rare Books and Special Collections Division. Library of Congress. <>.

Finberg, Gail. “LC’s Missing Whitman Notes Found in N.Y.”. The Library of Congress Gazette                               February 24, 1995.

Folsom, Ed and Genoways, Ted. “’This Heart’s Geography’s Map’: The Photographs of Walt                   Whitman”.  Virginia Quarterly. Spring 2005.

 All Photos are credited to the Library of Congress Web Site

Posted by: jessicaa | 12th Oct, 2009

Jessica for October 13th

             These short pieces seem to be purpose built snip-its from the war.  Whitman has created several prose peices all looking at the Civil War from different places, times, and perspectives, observing so many different people.  I find these pieces so visual, with quite a few themes running through them.  There is so much imagery of filth; the filth of the soldiers is explicated over and over again.  “Their clothes all saturated with the clay power filling the air — stirr’d up everywhere on the dry roads and trodden fields by the regiments, swarming wagons, artillery, &c — all the men with this coating of murk and sweat and rain… baffled, humiliated, panic-struck” (732).  The filth seems to go hand in hand with the chaos of the war. 

                There is also such a strong prescense of youth.  Whitman describes the soldiers of the war as youth, and talks about their age frequently. It seems as though it is always the youth of our nation losing their lives to fight for our rights.  “I am more and more surprised at the very great proportion of youngesters from fifteen to twenty-one in the army…” (738).  “Most of these sick or hurt are evidently young fellows from the country … (743).  “some indescribably horrid wounds in the face or head, all mutilated, sickening, torn, gouged out — some in the abdomen– some mere boys…” (747).   “The Soldiers are nearly all young men…” (751).  There are more and more of these quotes throughout the prose.  I think the horror, for Whitman, is heightened because so many of the soldiers are mere boys, and he is witnessing all of the youth of the nation arriving filthy, and wounded, and mutilated.

                       Whitman makes so many of the victims of the Civil War so human. It seems that sometimes the horrors of war and the losses that are happening during a war begin to get dulled.  The bodies become numbers instead of names, and the people behind the fighting are lost.  Whitman tells so many stories of small, personal requests from the people whom he is caring for which makes them so human for the reader; it makes the reader much more sympathetic with the dead and dying.  From the soldier who craves rice pudding to the one who wants pickels; from the amputee who munches away on a crack with not a care in the world, to the young Irish lad who came to the country just to fight, Whiman makes the reader sympathize with all of them. 

Whitman’s treatment of his Civil War prose, and the work that Whitman did with these soldiers in the hospital is incredible.  If one didn’t like Whitman already, he sure should now because he is a humanist to the core, caring for soldiers from both sides of the line with such a personal compassion.  These snip-its not only provide the reader with an inside look at the horrors of the civil war, but also provide the reader with an inside look at Whitman as a compassionate human being.

Posted by: jessicaa | 5th Oct, 2009

Jessica for October 6th

                This section of Whitman’s poetry was very patriotic and moving in many ways.  The individual poem that spoke to me directly was “Song of the Banner at Daybreak”.  Here Whitman uses five different perspectives of America, and what its freedom truly is, and what America’s message as a country truly is. 

                The poem has sections from the poet, the child, the father, the pennant, and the banner.  The poet begins observing the banner flapping in the wind.  Its flapping sound is the voices of the country, the land, and its people.  The pennant is calling to the child, and the child is responding.  The child is interested in the pennant and what it stands for, and the father tries to focus his child’s attention away from military interest, and towards the material things that he can aspire to gain.  “Look at these dazzling things in the houses, and see you the money-shops opening, And see you the vehicles preparing to crawl along the streets with goods; These, ah these, how valued and toil’d for these! How envied by all the earth.” (Whitman 422).  It may seem here that the father’s values are a bit skewed, but his intentions are probably aimed at keeping his child safe.  The prospect of his child going into the military is frightening for the father.  He wants his child to see all of the material possessions available to him, and how valued these possessions are by others.

                However, the child is enraptured by the pennant and believes it is calling to him and all the children of the country.  The poet agrees with the views of the child.  The poet sees “Liberty!” in the banner and pennant.   The poet sees a duty for the people of this country to fight for freedom.  Without people like the child, who see the glory and honor in fighting for this country, in representing this country, there wouldn’t be the freedom for others to have the material wealth they now posses.

                       “O banner, not money so precious are you, not farm produce you, nor the material good nutriment, Nor excellent stores, nor landed on wharves from the ships, not the superb ships with sail-power or steam-power, fetching and carrying cargoes, Nor machinery, vehicles, trade, nor revenues – but you as henceforth I see you, Running up out of the  night, bringing your cluster of stars, (ever-enlarging stars,) Divider of daybreak you, cutting the air, touch’d by the sun, measuring the sky, (Passionatly seen and yearn’d for by one poor little child, While others remain busy or smartly talking, forever teaching thrift, thrift;)…. Out of reach, an idea only, yet furiously fought for, risking bloody death, loved by me, So loved – O you banner leading the day with stars brought for the night!  Valueless object of eyes, over all and demanding all – (absolute owner of all) – O banner and pennant!  I too leave the rest – great as it is, it is nothing – houses, machines are nothing – I see them not, I see but you, O warlike pennant!  O banner so braod, with stripes, I sing you only, Flapping up there in the wind.” (Whitman 426).

                            Whitman writes so passionately about the country here.  One can read this poem and see Whitman as the poet, advocating patriotism and the honor in believing in the inherent values and ideals that this country was formed from.  The flag doesn’t represent the material goods or the machinery; these things are nothing.  The flag represents the honor in believing in freedom and liberty, and fighting for those rights.  Whitman is pleased that the child sees these things in the flag, and hears the song of the flag and wants to dance to that song for the freedom of our country. 



Posted by: jessicaa | 28th Sep, 2009

Something Humerous

I came across the following document while searching for information about Whitman, and found it quite humorous.  I thought I would share.


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