Ode to Walt Whitman Themes

Themes and Meanings (Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The vituperative stance of the poem’s speaker regarding urban homosexuals, called “perverts of the cities” and “mothers of filthiness,” implies a certain distance between the speaker and García Lorca himself. These wanton carriers of disease who “bestow upon boys/ the foul drop of death with wormwood of venom” disgust the speaker with their base disregard for the feelings of their sexual partners and the studied artifice of their appearance.

Midway through the ode, these “toadies of women” and “dressing-room bitches” improbably try to claim Whitman as one of their own, pointing him out publicly with the “taint of their fingernails.” Their obvious antagonism to the natural world, though, precludes this possibility. Indeed, even when described in natural terms as animals, these raffish urban homosexuals appear in a negative light as “catlike and serpentine” and are later pronounced “dove-killers.” After all, sexual desire need not manifest itself so vilely; in contrast to the primarily physical and self-indulgent encounters of the city, the speaker reminds men that “we might, if we would, lead our appetite on/ through the vein of the coral or the heaven-sent nude.”

Having suitably praised Whitman for the sincerity of his motivations, the speaker unhesitatingly goes on to group his poetic forebear with those homosexuals whose honest embracing of their identity is reason for admiration. Addressing Whitman...

(The entire section is 547 words.)