What are the major themes and ideas in Song of Myself 10 by Walt Whitman

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In section 10 of Song of Myself, Whitman explores ideas of pastoral life, of being true to the life of a place, of living in such a way as to not deny natural impulses, and also of accepting the moral duties that come naturally to a person.

The section opens with the narrator being "alone far in the wilds", living in perfect natural freedom, hunting and sleeping outdoors. As the poem moves on, the narrator skips from place to place, describing situations where a certain way of life is codified (associated with well-known customs). In each of these situations the narrator recognizes as the simple facts of the rites of that place, almost entirely without any moral or value-oriented commentary.

The life of these places simply is what it is, participating fully in its own nature. (This idea is akin to the notion of dharma in Hinduism, and appears as an influence in many sections of Song of Myself.)

The final part of section 10 depicts the narrator taking in a runaway slave, nursing him and protecting him. This act is not given any moral commentary either and is presented with the same even acceptance and naturalness as are all the other episodes of the section.

Thematically speaking, we can interpet this section as being expressive of acceptance of nature, of individual impulses and of the truth of local customs.

 

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Section 10 of Song of Myself, there is the idea of acceptance of all that the poet observes in nature and those who live in accompaniment with him.

There is no moral judgment placed upon those whom the poet observes; for him, they are simply a part of the sprawling combination of nature and men. In this section, those that the poet observes live according to their rites and customs. For instance, there is the marriage of a trapper with a bride who is "a red girl": 

On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand....

Further, the poet calmly narrates that an escaped slave has come outside his house. When the poet hears him, he leads him inside and tends to his neck and leg where the iron has worn his skin. Then the poet adds,

He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north, 
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.

Here we see a lack of judgment from the poet—there is only acceptance of the other regardless of his station in life. This section furthers Whitman's democratic acceptance of all that he observes and experiences. 

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