Adam L for 11-5

November 5th, 2009

The Songs of Parting section has incredibly sad and self-conscious moments, and likewise, very joyous and universally conscious moments. I’m particularly fond of the drastic differences in the length of some of the poems, especially The Untold Want, Portals, and These Carols, and Now Finale to the Shore. Whitman is fixated on nautical metaphors for life, the lifespan as a voyage, space and time as a sea. To Whitman, death seems to be an all-expenses-paid cruise.

In Portals, the second line would be incredibly dismal, somber on its own: “And what are those of life but for Death?” What a fatalistic bummer this line would be without the previous line, “What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the Unknown?” Whitman is somewhat excited about anticipating the voyage of death that awaits him, and clearly considers it to be a moment of ascent, of moving up, of evolving. His choice to capitalize “Unknown” and “Death” while leaving “known” and “life” uncapitalized reinforces this idea – the hereafter is superior in its mystery.

The same idiosyncracies follow in These Carols, with a lower case “the world I see” juxtaposed with the capitalized “Invisible World.” I’ve been fixated on Whitman’s ideas about spirituality throughout all of my reading for this course, and this section seems to express his realization that all of his poetic daydreaming about the universe in earlier years is quickly approaching. He is awed, sad, but joyous at the same time. This is perhaps the most moving poetry I’ve read by Whitman so far.

Moving back a page, to As They Draw to a Close, I’m deeply compelled by Whitman’s intuitive conclusions about the nature of the universe, the speculative hereafter. “Through Space and Time fused in a chant, and the flowing eternal identity, To Nature encompassing these, encompassing God–to the joyous, electric all, To the sense of Death, and accepting exulting in Death in its turn the same as life.” In my last post, I called Whitman a Bokononist, but here he seems to be a Buddhist, a Pre-Einstein Einsteinian, and a Quantum Spiritualist. Certainly he was familiar with Eastern Spirituality, but what amazing intuition he had about the universe that he was describing it in ways that Neo-spiritualists of the 21st century would over a century later.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever successfully married a rational, scientific worldview with a spiritual one – but Whitman certainly came incredibly close, especially for his time.

One Response to “Adam L for 11-5”

  1. emilym said:

    Nice job tackling the entire section of “Songs of Parting.” I like how you list all of the different forms Whitman takes in his writing.

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