With section 52, Whitman ends his long poem Song of Myself—a poem that seems to encompass both eons and universes. How can such a poem end? Only with the same exuberant flourish that has sustained its seemingly ceaseless energy and boundless love of everything.
As this section opens, Whitman sees a hawk, but more importantly, he imagines being seen by it. As he always does, he is putting himself into the point of view of another creature, showing his empathy with all beings. He pictures the busy, determined, focused hawk chiding him for his laziness. Yet he also identifies himself with the hawk. At the end of the poem, he can still say that, like the hawk:
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable...
He announces his departure in perhaps the most important lines of section 52:
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.
He merges, diffuses, into air and water, no longer the poet but simply an elemental part of...
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