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Whitman is analysing the never-changing course of life. In these four lines, he presents the illusion of change that we all hold on to–that we are evolving and changing as time progresses–and proceeds to destroy that image by revealing that despite all our “evolution”, the world continues to turn as though we were never here. But he presents this not as a disturbing reality, but a calming perpetuity upon which we can count on even amidst the chaos of life.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Main Entry: 1bawl
Pronunciation: \ˈbȯl\
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English, to bark, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Icelandic baula to low
Date: 1533

intransitive verb
1 : to cry out loudly and unrestrainedly
2 : to cry loudly


The poem opens with the words, “That coursing on.” Referring to the “round earth’s silent vital laws, facts, [and] modes,” Whitman is stating that they press on, “whate’er men’s speculations.”

The “changing schools, theologies, philosophies” are that which we have created and continue to create during our relatively brief period of existence on this world. “New and old,” the presentations that cry out to be acknowledged as more than mere transitory accomplishments are temporary, whereas the earth is eternal.

“The round earth’s silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.” The world was around before us and will continue to be around after us, existing entirely independently of humanity.

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That coursing on, whateer mens speculations,
Amid the changing schools, theologies, philosophies,
Amid the bawling presentations new and old,
The round earths silent vital laws, facts, modes continue.