Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"

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Review of Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman

Song of Myself, by Walt Whitman, is a poem about several subjects, including protests about the Civil War, and how humans work more efficiently as a team, even though the world has plenty of problems.

The first part of the poem, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” represents his belief that this country was born of people who unified themselves against a common foe from the Revolutionary War, the British. He believes that neither side in the Civil War—the North or the South—was better than the other, that the two should compromise.

The next part states, “I loafe and invite my soul, / I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass...” Whitman describes leisure time, observing a simple blade of grass; though it may be a trivial item, this said blade of grass, it permits him time to reflect on his life.

In lines 18-24, Whitman goes on to explain, “With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums. / I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play / marches for conquer’d and slain persons.” Why should one honor only those who win a battle, especially if both the victor and the victim were, fundamentally, on the same side? Whitman points this out, and proclaims it.

Line 31 states, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars...” Whitman explains how even the simplest blade of grass is an extremely complex, important thing, and thus of immense value. In essence, he is saying that everything is valuable, so why could the country not focus on getting along instead of declaring war upon itself?

Lines 51-53 say, “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” Did the laws of this country contradict themselves, by stating that all men are born free, and yet permitting the ownership of slaves? Whitman says, in essence, “So what? This country is huge. There is room for diversity.”

The phrase, “I contain multitudes,” is the assertion that everybody in America had, at that time (and even moreso, today), extremely diverse routes. It’s impossible to simply “be an American,” as there isn’t any type of “true” American. This country is made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of different ethnic groups, and there’s just no way to fit in with them all.

In summary, this country is a precious (and rare) gem, indeed, and we must do all in our power to preserve it. We also, however, must uphold the original laws set forth by the writers of the United States Constitution. All humans have a right to life, liberty, and happiness, and hopefully they will for centuries to come.

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