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What does "an unseen hand also passed over their bodies/It descended tremblingly...

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poem | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 15, 2008 at 1:12 PM via web

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What does "an unseen hand also passed over their bodies/It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs" mean?

In section 11 of "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman (lines 206-207)

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 15, 2008 at 2:23 PM (Answer #1)

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This quote does not mean anything when taken out of the context. 

“Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten'd with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass'd all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass'd over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs
.”

It is a empathic study of a woman who is watching the men swim from the window of her house.  The quote you refered to appears to be a sexual reference to the unknown woman and her running her hands over their bodies, bringing them to sexual fullfillment. 

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