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Whitman’s canary bird is an object of interest because we may remember The Bolton Group, a collection of Whitman admirers who had the canary bird stuffed and given to a memeber of their group as a gift.
The mighty books Whitman is referring to are the great literary works throughout history. Here Whitman’s comparing the study of these great works to absorb their deeper meaning vs. experiencing the world for pleasure as the canary bird does. His conjecture is that they are equally great for the soul.


The joyous “warble” from the canary bird is his joyous song.
Main Entry: 1war·ble
Pronunciation: \ˈwȯr-bəl\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English werble tune, from Old French (Picard dial.), from werbler to sing expressively, trill, of Germanic origin; akin to Middle Dutch wervelen to turn, Old High German wirbil whirlwind — more at whirl
Date: 14th century
1 : a melodious succession of low pleasing sounds
2 : a musical trill
3 : the action of warbling

The joy of the canary bird fills the room, and pleases Whitman’s soul as much as his reading does.

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Did we count great, O soul, to penetrate the themes of mighty
Absorbing deep and full from thoughts, plays, speculations?
But now from thee to me, caged bird, to feel thy joyous warble,
Filling the air, the lonesome room, the long forenoon,
Is it not just as great, O soul?