What is Song of Myself about, and what are the themes?

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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"Song of Myself" is Witman's almost (?) mystical testimoney to Democracy, the great democratic experiment.  In it he testifies to the essential oneness of everything:

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

Whitman goes on to expand the "every atom" he shares with the reader to include "every atom" in American.  His all inclusive lists celebrate the widest diversity in America:

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,  (15)

Whitman is giving us the distincitve American literature that Emerson called for, a treatment of democracy not as a concept, but as a living reality where all are equal not in theory, but in day-to-day practice. It is a great celebration of the dream that is America.

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