Choose one stanza from “Song of Myself” and discuss the political implications.
Song of Myself is a poem by an American poet Walt Whitman that is published among other works in his work Leaves of Grass. The poem is filled with numerous, significant details, although this paper will look only at one of them found in the sixth stanza of the poem. The following is a section derived from the poem. It is the sixth stanza, which the first section of the paper will base its arguments on.
A child said what is the grass. Fetching it to me with full hands,
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
A child asks the narrator of the poem to explain what grass is (Whitman, 1955). To answer this question, the narrator has to use his own utilization of imagery and symbolism and his incapability to break down things to crucial principles. The bunches of grass the child is holding thus becomes a symbol of the nature of regeneration. Nevertheless, they also indicate or signify a common material that connects all the different individuals throughout the United States.
Therefore, one can view or understand grass as an excellent example or symbol of democracy, because it grows everywhere even on top of graves. In the era and age of civil war, the same grass reminds the author of the poem of graves (Whitman, 1955), and even though the graves hold dead people, grass does not discriminate as it grows even on their graves. This also points out to another implication that everyone will have to die eventually. The natural roots of grass or democracy, in this matter, also are mortal, and they are vulnerable to death whether, as a result, of bloodshed and killing found in warfare or because of natural causes. While in other cases Whitman succeeds in this kind of imagery and symbolism, in this case it troubles him a little. He says that he could be able to interpret or understand where the boundary of the difference that exists between saying nothing and covering everything starts or ends.
The difficult the author experiences in trying to explain to the child what grass is means that even he cannot describe the democratic nature fully and especially if he is explaining it to individuals who cannot quite understand or comprehend it. Democracy here is shown as a complicated and challenging issue that individuals have to see how it works, and observe it so as to understand it. The only thing the author can tell the child is that he sees and experiences grass or democracy in young women and men (Whitman, 1955), meaning that democracy can be present in all people.
The author then takes this metaphor explanation further by telling the child that even the grass that has died (Whitman, 1955), or democracy that has diminished and the one that is forgotten is part of the whole, and is not treated separately. The poem Song to Myself explores and balances the themes of collectivity and individuality as two essential components for democratic experiments in the United States. The sixth section of this poem, therefore, is one of the essential ones in the whole text. This is because grass here is used as a symbol of hope and democracy. The poem and the author most likely wanted to liken grass to democracy because just as grass reaches every part of the world, so does democracy. When allowed to grow, democracy expands and covers all people including men and women.