Can someone break down Section 7 of Song of Myself by Walt Whitman?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

(Poetry speaks differently to every person who interacts with it.  I don't believe there is ever only one way to interpret poetry.  This is how section 7 speaks to me.)

In section 7 of "Song to Myself," the speaker (not necessarily Whitman) simply asks if people know that it as lucky to be born as it is to die. How he knows this he does not say, but he does speak in the "collective," rather than as an individual--as a part of the whole, a very transcendentalist view.

Still speaking in the collective sense, he defies the confines of skin, the body, to say that he passes death and birth, but he cannot be contained between his hat and boots.  He is part of the world around him: life at its end and its beginning.

From an universalist standpoint, the speaker looks at all the things in the world; he recognizes that no two are the same, but that each is good, as are the earth and stars, and all heavenly objects.

The speaker notes that he is not the earth or another planet, but connected, a companion, to all people; and all those people are as immortal and fathomless (hard to understand) as he is, though only he knows just how immortal they are. (He still does not indicate how he knows.)

Everything is connected to all things related to it: the speaker is a person, so he is connected to all humans, which include men and women; anyone who has been a boy and loved a woman; every man who is proud but has been hurt by insult; the woman who loves and the woman who never marries; mothers and their mothers.  He feels akin to anyone whose lips have smiled or eyes have cried, as well as children and those who have had children.  In other words, he feels a connection with all people, for every kind of person seems to fit into at least one of these categories.

Our speaker talks to everyone, saying, "Do not hide from me, for I see no guilt in you, nothing to reproach.  You are fresh, like new, and not to be dismissed or brushed aside as if valueless. I see through the disguise, the coverings, and I know what is true.

"I am around, determined, grasping, tireless; and I cannot be dismissed or pushed away:  I am a part of the whole of humanity.  We are all part of the whole."

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An examination of the tone of section 7 of Whitman's "Song of Myself" offers the reader a clear way to approach a literary analysis of this part of the poem.

In the first stanza of section 7, the speaker asks a rhetorical question, and then immediately proceeds to answer it. The tone of the answer is simultaneously defiant and humble as the speaker asserts his knowledge with confidence that dying is just as good as being born.

In the next stanza, the speaker sandwiches eloquent and flowery language in between lines of direct and accessible words. The stanza begins casually, with phrases like "am not contain'd between my hat and my boots", which are followed by more elevated language like "peruse manifold objects." The stanza finishes with repetition of the word "good," an easy adjective to understand. This combination of erudite diction and straightforward diction make for interesting shifts in tone that hold the attention of the reader, as the shifts make for an unpredictable reading experience.

The speaker continues to use repetition in the next two stanzas. Stanza 3 is short, but the lines begin with "I am" and stanza four is longer, with five out of six lines beginning with "For me." Repetition of these strong and simple phrases emphasizes the personal nature of the poem, and the individualized point of view from which all the ideas and emotions emerge. The tone of these stanzas is firm and challenging, daring the reader to have a different experience than the one described on the page.

The focus on personal experience continues through the last stanza, where the first word is a command: "Undrape!" The insistent tone of this word drives home to the reader the strength of the speaker's emotions, which can be described as "tenacious," one of the adjectives in the last line of the poem.