"I Celebrate Myself" is the first section of Whitman's poem "Song of Myself." In what ways does "I celebrate myself" serve as an appropriate introduction to the themes and poetic vision described in these excerpts?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A lover of humanity, Walt Whitman feels that he is a part of everyone else as well as a part of Nature. So, when he writes "I celebrate myself," Whitman implies that he celebrates all mankind. Much like his contemporary Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote him and praised this work, Whitman felt himself a part of something similar to Emerson's concept of the Oversoul. 

Like Emerson, Whitman believes that the individual human heart can embrace the entire universe. His "Song of Myself," therefore, is both an offering of himself and a celebration of this unity of self with nature and culture. "I am the poet of the woman the same as the man," he writes. In Section 16, also, Whitman writes of his connection to the world: "Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion."

Further, Whitman's placing of himself in and out of the points of view of others reflects his commitment to democracy and equality. Thus, the reader of "Song of Myself" is able to view the world through the eyes of the poet, and, therefore, experience a sense of unity in humanity. In the final section (52), Whitman writes,

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, 
Missing me one place search another, 
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

In Leaves of Grass the sensibilities in the individual as described throughout the poem by Whitman are actually linked to a larger social and political fabric. For this reason, then, the phrase "I celebrate myself" serves as an appropriate introduction.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the collection of Whitman's work, eventually titled "Leaves of Grass," every image, every experience, every "atom of my blood," is a celebration, not only of Whitman but also of the reader -- "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."  As Whitman gathers his life anecdote by anecdote, every contact with other humans ("the country boy at the close of the day driving the herd of cows"), every moment of repose with Nature ("I looked up in perfect silence at the stars"), in every appreciation of civilization's progress (from farm animals to "streets, piers, shipping, store-houses"), "I am mad for it to be in contact with me."  He "celebrates" his very existence, his own facticity, as he "contributes a verse" by inviting his soul to observe the world with him.  Whitman is celebrating the immediacy of his physical presence, "signing for body and soul" when he puts his signature to his work. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial