"We Are Many" has been called a "geography of self" poem. What do you think the term means?
The poet has dug deep within his self. His introspection has unraveled some unexpected facts about himself. He has discovered that he is not simply a single being! In fact, there are many persons that he is made up of.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
The metaphor of ‘geography of self’ is an unusually apt one that describes best the self-exploration of diverse facets of the poet's personality. Geography is a discipline of science that basically studies the world and its various physical features.
The poet’s discovery about various and contrasting aspects of his personality is like discovering various places and landforms on the earth. The poet is like a world in himself. Many of its aspects have been discovered by him while several others may be found out later in his life.
The poem is written in a lighter note, yet it deals with a universal experience. We humans are a curious mixture of varying and opposing emotions, traits and characteristics. Different circumstances bring out different facets of our character, sometimes leaving us baffled at our discovery of ourselves.
Like a voyager searches newer lands on the earth, the poet through self-rumination unmasks several personas within himself.
The intelligent and fool live together in him. He tries his best to act intelligently but makes a fool of himself. He can identify the brave person in him but his coward self overpowers him and he shrinks in fear.
The poet idolizes as well as envies the fictional heroes of books and movies, who appear almost perfect to him. Within himself he can see his “dashing being,” but when he summons him, his "same old lazy self" instead turns up.
He is hopeful that one day he will have solved the mystery surrounding his true identity. After having found the answer, when he would attempt to explain himself, he says,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.
I doubt if there could be any better metaphor than ‘geography of self’ that could describe the poet’s baffling self-exploration in a more expressive and convincing way.