Posts Tagged ‘walt whitman’

from “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman


“The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab
and my loitering.

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 shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

-Walt Whitman

The poem starts with a hawk swooping down at the narrator because of the narrator’s talking and waiting around. Like the bird, the narrator is not tamed. He is coaxed away by the end of the day and departs in the air, shedding his flesh. he gives himself over to the dirt. Even though the reader does not know him, he will be good for¬†the reader¬†anyway. Even if the reader cannot find the author, the reader is encouraged to keep searching, he will find the author somewhere.

The clear metaphor of this poem is death. The day waits for his end and flings his likeness behind, in memories, behind him like a shadow that lasts after death. He departs the earth and the sun keeps on moving along as his soul leaves his body. What’s left becomes part of the earth and in turn the grass which begins at the bottom of the food chain and slowly moves up through the chain until it becomes sustanance for other human beings.

The idea of the shadow and the sustanance can actually be combined and the situation can be seen in a whole different way. Perhaps Whitman means that after he dies, he will not only live on in the carbon cycle, but it the fact that his poetry will persevere and live far longer than his mortal body will. This applied to the last stanza would have the message come across as even if you don’t understand what Whitman has written at first, keep trying and eventually you will meet him somewhere and understand it.