Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Although it might appear the poem is external to the poet, “To a Locomotive in Winter” is clearly a reflection of Whitman’s self-image. Much of what he wrote is an extension of the theme of the poem “Song of Myself.” This is not an egotistical pride, but a very honest and open celebration of the self. As the opening inscription of Leaves of Grass (1855-1892) declares: “One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person.” He invites the locomotive to join the poet: “For once come serve the Muse and merge in verse, even as here I see thee.” The bold masculine imagery is a reflection of how Whitman thought of himself: manly, strong, capable of whatever was at hand.
Similarly, while the poem shares little of the patriotism exhibited in many of his works, it is about his beloved country. In the brief “To Foreign Lands,” he promises in his poetry to “define America, her athletic democracy.” His was no naïve chauvinism, but a hearty hope for what America might become. Near the end of Leaves of Grass he wrote in “One Song, America, Before I Go”:
As Life and Nature are not great with reference to the Present only,But greater still from what is to come,Out of that formula for thee I sing.
In “To a Locomotive in Winter” Whitman celebrates a machine that he knows will help make...
(The entire section is 351 words.)
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