Virginia for Sept 8th

missvirginia on Sep 6th 2009

Whitman proves himself a definite advocate for nature. Not to mention, he seems to be vying for the position of bard to the United States. In almost every poem except for Song of the Open Road, he is painting such a gorgeous, descriptive picture and reminding us of the beauty we are surrounded with each day. He also mixes whether the beauty is from something earthly or human. Song of the Open Road gives us little vignettes on what the earth/God/passerby see. “The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d…the early market man, the hearse,” that gives us an idea of the “ordinary man” or the typical, blue collar American Whitman saw traveling in D.C. or walking home from his favorite bar in Manhattan. He begins to describe the scenery, “…You rows of houses! you window-pierc’d facades…” He continues in expanding his view, instead of mainly appreciating the beauty of what can be seen when traveling he remarks on himself, on human acts. “I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,” Whitman speaks. The juxtaposition of miracle-making in such a ho-hum, ordinary place is beautiful. Whitman feels connected to the road, “I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you, You express me better than I can express myself.”

However, Whitmans usual happy tone is exchanged for a more forewarning manner. “The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first.” Yet, Whitman still keeps a optimistic outlook with  the phrase “at first” in those stanzas. He knows that there is a way to get past the rudeness or silence. He says later, “Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes.” He evens alludes to rites of passage in saying, “these are the days that must happen to you,” almost like once you get past it, you are a citizen, a part of the group.

Thus, Whitman realizes that the social constructs of the culture America had did not facilitate an easy assimilation. The Irish, Asians, and African-Americans were the rookies he was talking to when he said, “Out of the dark confinement! Out from behind the screen! It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it.” Whitman is reminding the oppressed, in any state (social, racial, gender), that the treatement they get is not fair. He then encourages people, “The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him.” Whitman attempts to create a knowledgeable, less naive outlook. He refuses to turn a blind eye to any American who is being targeted by discrimination. He is the epitome of what Americans think other Americans should be like, tolerable, natural, and passionate.

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2 Responses to “Virginia for Sept 8th”

  1. Avatar of jpike1 jpike1 says:

    I agree with your statement, “Whitman proves himself a definite advocate for nature.” Throughout the poems, he constantly uses nature imagery. Yet this makes me wonder, if he is describing the world around him that he is observing, or is he trying to use nature to solve the problem of an unsettling world? Nonetheless, I feel that nature is an important characteristic of Whitman’s poems that can be analyzed for meaning. Many interesting ideas in this post!

  2. Caryn Levine says:

    I really enjoyed your post, especially the last paragraph. It reminds me of a Thomas Jefferson quote “Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master!” I agree with Whitman’s and your take on the minorities of this country and I too appreciate his assessment on what Americans should be like.

    Great Post!


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