missvirginia on Oct 25th 2009
We do a lot of joking and poking fun at Walt’s sexuality and his lovers, yet we also realize that it has so little to do with him, HIM, who he is to us. His infatuation with Lincoln has also been the butt of many jokes in our class. It is humorous, and especially hilarious when imagining him having intense “eye sex” with A. Linc. Whatta stud. In “Memories of President Lincoln”, I moved beyond the tittering and giggling of imagining Walt and Abe in a love triangle with Mary Todd (what, with all her crazy seances and such). I realized that Walt’s love and cherishment of Lincoln was much like my admiration of my grandmother. She died when I was six, and was not someone I knew. I, of course, met her, but I have no recollections of memories, traditions, anything with her. Yet, despite people having diverse views of whether she was a nice person or not, deserving my admiration, I love her.
This sort of blind love for acts read about, pictures seen of, and rumours divulged, it creates a very intimate relationship, albeit one-sided. Whitman did not personally know Lincoln at all (at least that is what our records show), but this blind, one-sided admiration perhaps persuaded his readers to look at Lincoln with more understanding, kinder eyes. Especially with the religious language in “Lilacs” and “O’ Captain”, the trinities, the birth vs. death imagery, all create venues for the reader to connect with Lincoln, via Whitman. “O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring; Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, And thought of him I love.” This one stanza contains both aforementioned points that Whitman used, and then some. Here, Whitman compares Lincoln to a “drooping star in the west”; incidentally, stars have a long, fruitful life, but when they go out, they pretty much collapse upon themselves, they die but leave a white dwarf behind. This white dwarf remains and (theoretically) continue to evolve into a black dwarf. I’m 99.9% positive that Whitman had no idea that his comparing Lincoln to a star, drooping in the west, would be so intense. Lincoln’s life, death, and legacy, leave him as an evolving, ever present, white dwarf.
Though we have read quite a bit of Walt’s poetry, his love in “Calamus” and the love he writes in letters about being a nurse are not comparable to his love in drum taps. The “Yeaaahhh, lets get this over with and reunify the nation” tone is contagious and most like the type of love conveyed in “Memories”. It is an exalted love, a love that realizes this national character is a man with faults, but because of being so real, becomes even more unique and desirable. Lincoln provides a unity that Whitman lacked his whole life. His father was rather absent, his family was poor, he had several siblings that were less than successful (including one that had some sort of mental impairment). With his family life as less than desirable, I think Lincoln represented a unified nation to which Whitman could father with his poetry, nursing, and love.
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