What does Walt Whitman mean when he calls the grass ''the flag of my disposition'' in section 6 of "Song of Myself"?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This line, which he expresses in section 6 of his poem "Song of Myself," expresses the sentiment that the grass under his feet is just another emblem that indicates that he is connected with the entire human race.  One of the main points of section 6 is to express the thought that when people die and are buried, eventually their bodies become fertilizer feeding the soil.  The grass then feeds on those nutrients, growing strong and green essentially off of the remains of people's lives.    He expresses this thought when he identifies grass as "the beautiful uncut hair of graves," and as sprouting "from the breasts of young men."

So, when Whitman claims that the grass is the "flag of his disposition," he is literally meaning that it is a representation or symbol of how he feels.  "Disposition" means his attitude, beliefs or feelings on an issue, and a flag would be an outward symbol of those feelings.  And Whitman feels that life is one continuous ciricle; death does not conquer, it just feeds the circle of life.  Grass symbolizes Whitman's belief that all men and women are connected; even though dead, the people buried in the ground sprout as grass, which he then sits and walks on.  Thus, he is connected to entire generations of Americans who have passed before him.  The grass being a "flag of my disposition" indicates that it represents his belief in the circle of life, his connectedness to everyone else, and the beauty and miracle of life and death. I  hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, a child asks the speaker, presumably Whitman, what the grass is and brings him handfuls of it. At first, Whitman doesn't know how to answer because he doesn't know any more than the child does. But then he begins to speculate about what the grass really is. His first idea is that the grass is "the flag of [his] disposition, out of hopeful / green stuff woven."

In other words, then, the grass is sort of symbolic of the speaker's temperament or his prevailing mood. He specifically refers to the grass's hopeful quality. Thus, we can infer that Whitman feels hopeful, and that this is his general disposition. Further, he also refers specifically to the grass's green color, and green is often associated with spring and new beginnings and even rebirth. In the context of nature, the color green is quite hopeful, as it appears just after winter, which can represent death. In this way, too, the grass is hopeful, just as the speaker claims to be.

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Song of Myself

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