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How does "Song of Myself", by Walt Whitman illustrate "the music of poetry"? Please...

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happy99 | Student, College Freshman | Salutatorian

Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:32 PM via web

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How does "Song of Myself", by Walt Whitman illustrate "the music of poetry"? Please give examples.

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:37 AM (Answer #1)

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The aspect of the title's "song" can have reference to the music that is within poetry.  As Hollander suggests, the music of poetry can be a direct reference to the effect that it has on the reader.  Like music, poetry's music seeks to reach the reader on a level that is powerful and transformative.  This condition is an integral part of Whitman's "Song of Myself."  Whitman celebrates the human condition and the essence of being in the world throughout the poem, with a music quality invoked in the very first line:  

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

There is a musical quality in the way Whitman is able to shift between the subjective vision of himself and the universal condition.  Like a good song, Whitman is able to enable his message to reach all humanity in being able to accomplish this shift.  The "song" that he sings is applicable to you, me, and every atom around us.  This helps to communicate a musical notion of poetry in how applicability is sought.

The music of poetry and the "song" notion of the poem is also seen in some of the lines featured.  These lines operate as verses of poetry, but also as lyrics in a song, seeking to cause reflection in such a small form of expression.  Whitman does not give a dissertation, essay, or speech to display such elements.  Yet, the concepts in these verses could easily form the basis of such forms. In this, the music of poetry is evident in Whitman's song.  Consider the following verses as example of poetry doubling up as music:

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is
     not my soul.

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
     beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

Samples of these verses can be found in modern music like Judy Collins, Simon and Garfunkel, and Hary Nilsson.  This helps to further convey how the music of poetry can be seen in Whitman's "Song of Myself."

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