Can someone paraphrase the poem "Whispers of Heavenly Death" by Walt Whitman?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "Whispers of Heavenly Death" by poet Walt Whitman from his epic work “Leaves of Grass” is essentially a treatise on the author’s viewpoint of the grand theme of Death. Whitman views death as ‘heavenly’, not something morbid and to be greatly feared.

Death, he indicates, speaks softly, and is not a cantankerous and frightful part of life. Some people view death as anything but heavenly, though.

Whitman likens the call of Death to ‘sibilant chorals.’ In describing death he employs euphemistic terms such as ‘gently’, ‘mystical, as well as ‘soft.’ Nonetheless, Whitman does interject what is certainly a part of Death, and this is his acquiescence to the fact that pain is a part of Death. In likening Death to rivers and currents he does says that:

(Or is it the plashing of tears? The measureless waters of human tears?)

So while describing Death as heavenly, Whitman does not discount the fact that sadness is a part of Death. He does use words such as ‘mournfully’ when describing Death as being like masses of clouds that sometimes mix with a ‘sadden’d far-off star.’

So, while there are whispers of heavenly Death as the title of this poem states, there is also the pain and suffering that is part of Death. To those who believe in something beyond death, the heavenly thought can be of great comfort.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Whispers of Heavenly Death," the speaker notes that death is sad and mournful but it is also a natural part of life. In fact, death is described as a pleasant, almost calming event. The title of the poem conveys this message directly with the adjective "heavenly." Other words in the poem add to this depiction of death as a tranquil, spiritual event. Death is not violent; it is whispered. Death "gently" ascends like "mystical breezes." In the end, death is not loss; it is an invisible birth, the birth of the soul. 

Death is also described as something that is always occurring and that it is like a calming presence. The last lines describe death as an invisible march of souls analogous to the circulation of the air, "On the frontiers, to eyes impenetrable,/Some soul is passing over." The images of flowing water and swelling clouds could represent a graceful funeral procession and the fluid, free movement of immaterial souls. 

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Leaves of Grass

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