Song of Myself by Walt Whitman | BA English Notes for Semester 3

Song of Myself: The notes of this poem has been written for the Students of BA Semester 3. BBMKU and VBU University and the other Universities of Jharkhand, Those who have a similar syllabus, can use this.

Song of Myself

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.


Song of Myself is a poem composed by Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman was an American poet. He is known as an individualistic poet. After reading the poem, this poem does not belong to a particular epoch, school, or creed. It is a depiction of human nature. In short, my song of myself shows the sense of fraternity in the world. Everything in all human beings is the same. Their blood is of the same color. He gives a message of unity in diversity. The poet says that people belonging to different religions must have a sense of respect towards every religion. Everything in this world is temporal. So we should be in pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is the aim of life. In this way, he celebrates the unity and brotherhood of humanity by singing of himself.

Critical Appreciation

The first notable thing is that Whitman calls his poems “songs.” It insinuates that Whitman feels an audible quality to his work because the actual meanings of his poems will not be understood if a listener does not hear them. Thus, Whitman feels he will not be understood as an individual if the world does not hear him.
Whitman’s subject is ‘Myself’, but it is clear that Whitman’s intentions signify more than his physical self.

Whitman tells himself a universe of meanings. He employs the image of ‘myself’ in nature as a symbol of his union with the world that surrounds him. Whitman’s self represents the entirety of America as well as the entirety of nature. This is evident through the usage of the catalog. The catalog is a literary device employed in poetry and prose to provide symbolic naming.

Whitman uses a catalog in “Song of Myself” to name a variety of professions and people that he meets on his journey across the States. He says that he becomes part of these people, and these people come to compose themselves.

In this poem, Whitman first explores the idea of collective and individuality. This catalog is Whitman’s illustration of the group. The title refers to the opening inscription of Whitman’s catalog, in which Whitman declared that his work Song of Myself, both the individual and his democratic self. The collective of all the people on earth is an individual self that is distinct from the individual self but is alike in the sense that it has its soul and being.

Whitman uses the grass as a metaphor in the sixth section of “Songs of Myself,” explaining the democratic self. Whitman tells about a child coming to him and asking him what the grass is. He has no definite answers, he cannot completely describe the democratic self to those who do not simply understand it. Whitman can only tell the child that he sees the democratic self in young men and older women, meaning that he sees it in all people. Whitman then takes the metaphor one step further, telling the child that even the grass that has died and has gone back to the earth is a part of the whole. “Song of Myself” balances the themes of individuality and collectivity as two important ingredients for the democratic experiment of America. This is Whitman’s political argument.

Whitman dissects “Song of Myself” by using a sort of parable. Parables are brief, succinct tale that provides the reader with a moral lesson or instructive one for listeners. Whitman’s tale has an explicit message, and it’s instructive to observe how Whitman’s love for democracy is linked to an erotic and sexual passion. Women see 28 men bathing and desire to be in their company. When she gets together with them, they become one with the help of the “unseen hand.” Whitman employs erotic and shocking pictures of males spraying water and ejaculation of males to excite the reader. Whitman is informing his readers to not only observe the political life; however, they must be part of it.

Whitman concludes “Song Of Myself” by attempting to define the vast, democratic collective but he is unable to do it because it’s difficult. Whitman makes it a point to inform the reader that he doesn’t agree with himself and that his democratic self is full of contradictions. Whitman knows that the democratic system of America is not perfect, is rife with self-serving and inequity, and compromised by the tyranny of an individual. He strips the human self back to the most basic being primal, flesh, and cravings. Whitman will continue Leaves of Grass with this carnal perspective in the subsequent sections.

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