What is the meaning of section 52 in Song of Myself by Whitman?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this final section of this amazing poem, the speaker sees a hawk, and his response is to feel immensely humbled as he sees elements of himself in the hawk. In particular, the comparison between himself and the hawk is based on the elemental power within it and the fact that his voice is "untranslatable" and described as a "barbaric yawp." Both are not tamed. The day itself waits for the speaker to move ahead and takes him into darkness. The ending of the day is a very symbolic time as it can be reminiscent of death and dying. We now recognise that the speaker's hair has turned white, and he shakes his "locks" at the sun that is sinking beneath the horizon. In this final section, he apparently becomes one with nature, leaving his physical form and giving himself up to the soil and ground and the "eddies" of water. This is of course an image that is picked up earlier in the poem with the idea of the grass covering or containing all those who have died. The speaker therefore tells us that if we want to search for him we need look no further than the ground beneath our feet. Searching for him is a key task that all humans should engage in. Even though we won't be able to find him, he will give health to those who walk on him. We mustn't become discouraged if we are unable to locate him and we must continue the search. The speaker ends the poem by confirming that he is not deliberately avoiding us. He has simply stopped slightly ahead of us on the path and is waiting for us to join him.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
The poem has finished and come to its conclusion, and we are left with the vivd and visceral union with nature that the speaker has attained and which he urges us to seek and be aware of in a similar way.

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