In the poem "Song of myself" by Walt Whitman, what are poetic devices, structure and themes metaphors personification etc. in section 52 of this poem?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Section 52 is the conclusion of Song of Myself, in which the poet imagines his death as a sort of sublime integration with the world. Whitman’s language is powerful and evocative. He imagines the spotted hawk as his companion, complaining of “my gab and my loitering.” This is a kind of anthropomorphism, in which the poet projects human qualities on the hawk, except here it works in a reverse way: Whitman projects qualities of the hawk onto himself! He too sounds his “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (“yawp” is a made-up word meant to sound like the cry of the bird and so is an example of onomatopoeia). Like the hawk, “the last scud of day holds back for me,” and, with the bird, he disappears into “the vapor and the dark.”

The second half of the section is marked by a shift in the grammatical repetition (or anaphora) Whitman uses to build rhythm in his language:

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

Whitman simply becomes part of the air or dirt. He recurs in this section to an idea he mentioned in the second line, his “untranslatability,” which at first meant the “untranslatable” wildness of the hawk’s cry (and of his own “yawp”). Here, he again tells his reader, “You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,” which is both an expression of the dissolution of his spirit and a commentary on his poetry, or perhaps on his relationship to his reader. It doesn’t matter, Whitman says, if you know me or understand my words: “I shall be good health to you nevertheless.”

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Section 52 of Whitman's "Song of Myself" is written, like the rest of the poem, in free verse.  There is no rhyme and no fixed meter (rhythm), although it is interesting to note that many of the lines have between 12 and 15 syllables.

Whitman uses a wide variety of poetic devices.

a) Onomotopea (words that mimic a sound): "my barbaric yawp."

b) Anthropomorphism (inaminate objects are described as if they are human:

the day "coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk."

c) Anaphora (the repetition of phrases or grammatical structures):

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies

The theme of this section of the poem is the poet's view of his death and his future life after death. The poet does not fear death.  Rather, he sees it as a return to nature, from which he came:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love.

The poet predicts that he will simply become part of the dust that the reader will find "under you boot-soles."  Although he will be hard to find, the poet predicts that he will bring "good health" to the world.