"I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy; / By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms" (lines 506–507). Describe the democratic project of the poem: What does it include? For whom are the things it accepts catalogued, and why? Whom does the poem seem to be addressing, and to what purpose? Consider the confident tone of the poem's voice: "In vain the speeding or shyness, / In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach, / In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones, / In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes, / In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low" (lines 674–78). The shapes, sizes, and dangers in this passage are often taken as the sublime, something to be regarded with awe and terror. How does Whitman treat the sublime in this poem?

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Whitman and his American literary brethren arose in response to the hidebound, constrictive, and myopic culture of the Old World. The oppressive weight of the trappings of European culture and its attendant baggage could not stand.

This explains these references to human individuality, yet interdependency, and our collective place within a benign creation. We, and all the contextual fabric of our cosmos, as opposed to Whitman’s micro-level of sensual detail, are completely at one with nature, as well as with the...

(The entire section contains 249 words.)

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