Leaves of Grass "I Sound My Barbaric Yawp Over The Roofs Of The World"

Walt Whitman

"I Sound My Barbaric Yawp Over The Roofs Of The World"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Walt Whitman, sometime carpenter and editor and finally masterful practitioner of fluid free verse, chose as his poetic role that of spokesman of the people and of trumpet of America. Leaves of Grass, his collected poems, shows his love of mankind, his relationship to God, his mystical connection with nature, his view of the Civil War, and his belief in the manifest destiny of America. In the first poem of Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself," so titled in the 1881-1882 edition of Leaves of Grass, but untitled in the 1855 edition, and called Poem of Walt Whitman, an American in the 1856 edition, he identifies himself with all mankind, good and bad, rich and poor. He proclaims the dignity of man and the majesty of nature, praises the natural element in man, and declares himself to be the poet of the body and the soul. Transcending time and space and assuming a cosmic greatness, he compares himself with a spotted hawk and his uncontrolled verse with the cry of the bird:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he
complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.