Throughout Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, we find many passages such as this one. While this quotation seems to come specifically from Justin Kaplan's biography of Whitman, it captures the spirit of Whitman's epic work. In his poetry, Whitman often displaces his own personal voice to adopt the voice befitting "the bard of America," a collective voice as cosmopolitan and diverse as the mid-nineteenth-century America Whitman cherished.
Elsewhere in the poem, Whitman writes,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes)...
Throughout his "Song of Myself," then, Whitman creates images and voices that seem to encompass the scope of the nation itself, and he sets these paradoxes in harmonious tension. Whitman presents images of men and women, but he also bridges the space between these genders through an androgyny that partakes of both. Even Whitman's fully masculine images are, in fact, tender, sensitive, and intuitive. Strong sounds in the poetry itself are contrasted by the gentleness with which the speaker describes a person or natural landscape.
In every way Whitman can imagine, he seeks to resolve these paradoxes, showing the brilliant coherence amid surface difference. As the voice of America, his poetic style embodies the ideal of e pluribus unum such that seeming divisions are bridged through the poem's merging of opposites.