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How can we apply this passage in our lives from "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman? "You...

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scotthaken | (Level 1) Honors

Posted August 19, 2013 at 4:03 AM via web

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How can we apply this passage in our lives from "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman?

"You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the specters in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 19, 2013 at 6:53 AM (Answer #1)

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This passage from the second stanza of "Song of Myself" introduces a vitally important theme in this incredible poem, in which the speaker urges his audience to not accept experience that has already been mediated for them, but to go out and to get their own experience first hand. As always with such quotes, it is important to read these extracts in context, and examining what comes just before this quote is particularly revealing:

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much?

Have you reckoned the earth much?

Have you practiced so long to learn to read?

Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,

You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are millions of suns left...

The speaker is clearly addressing his lover and urging him to move beyond simply trying to live life according to what others say about it and encouraging him to "possess the origin of all poems" and "the good of the earth and sun." Whitman, as the original quote highlighted in this question identified, thought it was wrong to simply gain the perspective of the world through nothing more than books and the opinions of others, even of himself, and that what was most important for an individual was to gain his or her own experience of life that is not mediated. This is the challenge of this quotation.

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