Can somebody please explain to me what happens in Section 5 of Song of Myself by Walt Whitman?
accessteacher | Certified Educator
It can be rather difficult to follow the flow of Whitman's argument in this long and developed poem, so let me see if I can guide you through this section of it. One thing you might find helpful is to realise that Whitman refers to various different "selves" in this poem, and this section begins with him addressing his "soul," telling it that he believes in it and that the other part of him that gets distracted by day-to-day worries must stay in its place rather than take over. He invites his soul to come and sit on the grass with him. He wants the soul to hum a tune. At this stage, the poem talks about an erotic encounter that the speaker has with his own soul. They were lying together in June, when the soul gave Whitman a really intense kiss that penetrated all the way to Whitman's heart. Whitman says that such intimacy with your own soul can only give you "peace and joy and knowledge," so this is a good thing. Towards the end of the poem, Whitman gives us an idea of his religious beliefs. He believes that God is intrinsically a part of his own nature rather than separate to him. Interestingly, this was definitely not the accepted view and would have been considered blasphemy by those around him. The speaker experiences an epiphany about the world lacking boundaries and that everybody is actually his brother or sister. He ends by stating his belief in the primary force of love and how it acts as the "kelson of the creation." A kelson is a beam that acts to keep a ship steady. Through this comparison, Whitman is saying that love as a force helps to stabilise the world.