"Song of Myself" was originally untitled in the collection. Later, it was called "Poem of Walt Whitman , an American," and later still it was shortened to "Walt Whitman" before it was given its final name. Whitman saw his whole body of work as interconnected, and he continued...
"Song of Myself" was originally untitled in the collection. Later, it was called "Poem of Walt Whitman, an American," and later still it was shortened to "Walt Whitman" before it was given its final name. Whitman saw his whole body of work as interconnected, and he continued revising and adding to Leaves of Grass throughout his lifetime.
"Song of Myself," along with many of the other poems in Leaves of Grass, draws heavily on the philosophy of transcendentalism, which sees people and nature as good and extols the virtues of individualism and idealism.
The first stanza of "I Celebrate Myself and Sing Myself" serves as a thematic statement for not only "Song of Myself," but also the entire body of Whitman's work. It is important to keep in mind that the "I" of the narrator does not merely stand for Whitman himself. Instead, it represents much more. A key to this is found in the first stanza where Whitman writes that "what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."
The narrator's "I" in fact represents three things. First of all, it is the individual person Walt Whitman who, as he goes on to say, is 37 years old as he writes this and was born in America of parents and grandparents who were also born in America. Part of Whitman's celebration in "Song of Myself" is a declaration that as an individual he sees himself as good.
However, the narrator goes far beyond seeing himself as one lonely person apart from other people. Instead, he identifies himself with others. Later in the poem he describes an array of different types of people and expresses his love for them all. He proclaims that he speaks with the voices of slaves, prostitutes, the diseased, the despairing, and others. Still later, he becomes the people that he writes about, and tells their stories in first person as if it were all happening to him. In other words, the "I" that the narrator celebrates and sings of includes all of humanity.
Whitman also includes nature and the universe in his all-encompassing "I." He writes that he believes that "a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars." He feels a part of nature and of the animals, which he also describes and declares that he loves.
We see, then, that the first stanza in "I Celebrate Myself and Sing Myself" is no less than a declaration that Whitman is celebrating and singing about himself as an individual, the rest of humanity, and the entire expanse of nature and the universe.