Calamus: Summary and Analysis

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In Paths Untrodden - Summary
The opening poem of the Calamus cluster in Leaves of Grass establishes what the collection will be about: affection between men. Whitman plainly declares that he is “Resolv’d to sing no songs to day but those of manly attachment.” Indeed, he identifies his specific subject matter as “all who are or have been young men,” and he intends to “celebrate the need of comrades.” The poem also establishes the difficulty of choosing such a subject; in order to do so, Whitman must find himself “Escaped from the life that exhibits itself, / From all stands hitherto publish’d.” He needs to think in a new and different way and find “standards not yet publish’d.” He needs to remove himself “from the clank of the world” to such an extent that he is alone “in this secluded spot,” the only place where he can “dare” to write truthfully and openly about “manly attachment” or “athletic love.”

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Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand - Summary
As is characteristic of Whitman, he pulls his reader into the experience of this poem right in the beginning by addressing it to “you,” the reader. The reader “holds” Leaves of Grass —and, by extension, Whitman—“in hand” as he/she reads the poems. This poem is patterned “against the fickle nature of human emotions, the ‘ups and downs’ of love between people” in a relationship. Whitman presents a “roller coaster ride of emotions” in this poem. First, Whitman outlines the uncertainty that loving causes: it can be “destructive” for the lovers; it is a “long and exhausting” commitment that requires each partner to lose some of his individuality (“all conformity to the lives / around you would have to be abandon’d”). Whitman ends this section in despair, believing that such a commitment is too difficult, is too much to expect.

Next, however, Whitman imagines how and where that love relationship could take place: out in nature and away from the sharp eye of society. He imagines a meeting “in some woods,” “on a high hill,” “at sea,” “on the beach,” or on a “quiet island.” Whitman ends this section on an optimistic note, with the “comrade’s long dwelling kiss” resounding.

Following this, Whitman writes of an even more profound love, one that is like a tender and true embrace. In such an embrace, Whitman would “silently sleep and be carried eternally.”

Finally, however, Whitman returns to his initial uncertainty and despair over the likelihood that the relationship he describes will fail. Moreover, he suggests that the reader will ultimately fail to understand him and his book of poetry. He returns back to his initial riddle: “the one thing” without which “all is useless” is the reader’s ability to understand Whitman’s subject matter. And Whitman gives up; with resignation, he suggests that the reader “release” or put down his book of poems and “depart on your way.”

For You O Democracy - Summary
Whitman paints a striking picture of a democratic America where “the life long love of comrades” can exist freely and grow. This America stretches out expansively, as Whitman connects trees to rivers to lakes to prairies to cities. In all, “the manly love” of the “most splendid race” connects all these parts of America and makes the cities human, “inseparable with their arms about each other’s necks.” Whitman uses images of nature to describe “manly love,” for he sees the landscape reflecting this love: “I will plant companionship thick as trees.” In the end, Whitman declares that he composes his poetry, “trill[s] these songs,” in order to praise the principles of democracy.

These I Singing in Spring - Summary
During a walk out in nature, “[f]ar, far in the forest,” Whitman gathers various flowers, branches, twigs, herbs, and pieces...

(The entire section contains 2397 words.)

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