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"Whoever You are Holding me now in hand." What's the meter, theme, and...

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icy | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted July 29, 2008 at 5:01 AM via web

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"Whoever You are Holding me now in hand." What's the meter, theme, and metaphor in "Leaves of Grass"?

I really dont understand the meaning of the last two stanzas of the poem. In addition, I need help to analyze metaphor, meter, rhythm in "Whoever You are Holding me now in hand"

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted July 29, 2008 at 11:22 PM (Answer #1)

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Whitman's poem "Whoever You are, Holding Me now in Hand" appeared in the third edition of his "Leaves of Grass" (1860) which was entitled "Calamus.

 The inflorescence of the calamus plant is shaped like an erect male penis. Calamus is thus a metaphor for male homosexual love both physical and emotional.  In Greek mythology Kalamos the son of the river god Maeander loved Karpos son of Zephyrus and Chloris. When Karpos died in a drowning accident, Kalamos was griefstricken and he was transformed into a reed.

Although the poem is full of overt physical references my personal opinion is that it refers to the emotional bonding or difficulty in establishing an emotional bonding between the poet and his readers. 

The leaf of the calamus plant resembles a sharp sword, and in Japan it is considered a symbol of the Samurai's bravery.  Whitman puns on the word 'leaves.' "Leaves conning" refers to the pages of his book of poems "Leaves of Grass."  Just like how the sword shaped leaves of the calamus plant can hurt someone so also  Whitman warns his readers that their sensibilities will be hurt when they read his poems and the true meaning of his poems will "certainly elude" or "con" (deceive) them. Hence the readers are warned of the risks of attempting to read his poems in a very superficial manner.

The metre and rhythm of the poem is that of free verse which mimics everyday speech.

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