Can anyone explain what sections 16 and 19 mean in the poem "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Section 16 starts with contradictions.  He states he is one thing, but also the opposite of that thing: "Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man" (l.3).  Whitman is saying that he is filled with contradictions, and he states it proudly-it is not something to be ashamed of.  It finishes with Whitman stating that he is a part of everything and everyone, from every sort of tradesman-he lists many, including "mechanic, artist, gentleman" (l. 30)-and at home anywhere.  He ends by stating that despite the fact that he is everyone, everywhere, and proudly full of contradictions, he is, like nature, "not stuck up, and [is] in [his] place" (l. 34).

In section 19, Whitman starts by saying that he does not judge anyone, and all are welcome, even the ones usually outcast: "The heavy lipp'd slave is invited, the venerealee is invited" (l. 6).  He continues with some beautiful imagery of subtle moments in life:  "the press of a bashful hand...the touch of my lips to yours" (ll. 8-10).  Then, he indicates that he has no other purpose in this invitation than does nature in her natural cycles, and that he has chosen to tell "you" (the reader) of this feeling.

These sections go along with major themes of "Song of Myself":  a celebration of himself in all its beauties and flaws, and his feeling of kinship and belonging with nature and mankind.