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How does this passage from "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman diverge from the...

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boombastic | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 10, 2010 at 3:53 AM via web

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How does this passage from "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman diverge from the mainstream of romanticism?

"Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entreatied, braced in beams, stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, I and this mystery here we stand."

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 10, 2010 at 4:19 AM (Answer #1)

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This passage from Walt Whitman is too self-assured and confident, assertive and straightforward to be typical Romanticism.  The Romantic movement focused on the extreme details of nature, of the more sentimental side of humans, and is much more elusive and mysterious, wordy and subtle.  Romantics didn't focus extremely on self-analysis like Whitman did, who was more of a Transcendentalist.  Rather,  human nature was a beautiful mystery, one to be feared and even explored as a dark force.  A lot of romantic literature focused on the unknown, the supernatural and the unexplained.  It tended not to be autobiographical, but fictional, focusing on very cut and dry good or bad characters.

Whitman's declaration of strength, self-pride and independence is very autobiographical, straightforward, and dealing with what he can feel and touch, rather than the mysterious and unknown.  It focuses on the good of human nature, and encourages us to relish and celebrate it.  Instead of something to be frightened of or romanticized, human nature is a powerful force of strength and good in our lives.  Whitman embraced a spin-off of the Romantics, the Transcendentalists, who shared the Romantic's love of nature and God, but were much more focused on the self as a conduit of good and enlightenment in the world.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted February 10, 2010 at 6:35 AM (Answer #2)

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This passage from 'Leaves of Grass' by Walt Whitman diverges from the mainstream of romanticism in that it does not deal only with Nature and her mysteries and beauty, but also with Mankind and it's works. There is a fixedness and a certainty that seems to be shared by man and nature alike, striding together in partnership. Wordsworth on the other hand, often dealt with questions, mysteries and the hidden menavce and power within Nature itself. Language such as 'plumb in the uprights' by Walt Whitman talk in the most direct and candid terms directly to and about the common working man - working 'with' Nature to perhaps harness and improve upon it. 'Braced in beams' shows the trees being used as building materials by man.

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