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A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
This passage comes from the 6th section of "Song of Myself". It demonstrates some of the differing Whitman has for what the grass actually is. As a transcendentalist, Whitman sees that the grass can represent a variety of thoughts or ideas. Whitman's musings demonstrate that he might not have any better chance at knowing than a child. He further believes that the grass might represent personality, or that which catches the Lord happiness and sadness, or a regular symbol of time or record, or the cycle of life.
The common theme in these various representations of grass would be the identity of man over time as he changes. This theme rings true with the deeper meaning of the poem as a whole. It also fits the condition of life. Grass grows, withers, and dies. It takes on an identity to the people who use it.
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