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We return again to the same hill from “The Pilot in the Mist”, where Whitman stands admiring the symbolism of the waves as the tides of life, from which he has decided what is "the mystic human meaning". Mystic is defined as “involving or characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content, as certain religious ceremonies and art; spiritually significant; ethereal” ( The spiritual human meaning has come to Whitman through the combination of nature and poetry. The “law” Whitman refers to is the law of nature. The swells and ebbs are the births and deaths. The "brain" is the physical body, and "the voice that chants" is the poetic soul. And in the midst of the all encompassing world, every thought he has conveyed and every poem he has written may be so small it’s just a "drop", but is important as one of many drops that make up the entire wave (“By That Long Scan of Waves”). The poetic voice is in constant harmony with the laws of nature and eternity.
Here we are still referring to the "ebb" of the last paragraph. Embark, tide, and do your part, Whitman said in the previous passage. No part of the whole is alone; not the lost designs (from the poet's unnamed, see “Had I the Choice” ), nor failures, aspirations, they are all part of the tide that rises and falls. Glamour- “the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, esp. by a combination of charm and good looks. “ ( The poet seems to be deceiving because of his fascinating qualities, but this is natures great poem. All the poets are blending to make up the elements that make up nature. The unnamed poet is the artist who can recreate these parts of nature. The narrator is realizing the eddies (see “Last of Ebb, and Daylight Waning”) of the poets voices are pulling him back. He recognizes the voices now as the elements of Birth Eternal. Birth Eternal referring to the ever existing cycle of life in the universe, and the existence of the poetic voice.
Tennyson's fair ladies refers to the famous English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem "The Lady of Shallot". In the poem "Tennyson focused on the Lady's isolation in the tower and her decision to participate in the living world" (Wikipedia). The theme of Tennyson's poem mirrors the theme occurring in this section of Fancies at Navesink, where Whitman is rallying for participation in the living world. Tennyson’s poem Ulysses is also referenced in The Wallabout Martyrs.
Shakespeare, the famous English poet and playwright was famous for his rhyme and meter. Unlike Whitman who is the father of free verse, Shakespeare followed a strict form of stressed and unstressed syllables and rhyme schemes. It can be seen that Whitman alludes to the different techniques in writing in line 5.
Homer is the ancient Greek epic poet and author of The Illiad and The Odessey. His characters are also referenced in Whitman's "Wallabout Martyrs" line 1. Hector, Achilles, and Ajax are all Trojan War heroes.
The First Dandelion is an indication that winter is on its way out. It is simple, fresh and fair, unlike the cunning tricks of fashion, business, and politics. The definition of artifice is a clever trick or stratagem; a cunning, crafty device or expedient; wile. In contrast to the social confines of fashion, business, and politics, the dandelion is compared to positive qualities of nature. It is trustful because it shows its face in the same aspect every year. The dandelion is reliable unlike the artifice of false social constructs. When WHitman sees the first dandelion, it is as if nothing else exists but this beautiful sign of the beginning of spring.
Here Whitman juxtaposes the memories of famous Greek Heroes and the tomb of Alexander with the "cart loads" of remains of Revolutionary War heroes. Whitman suggests that the memory of Homer's ficticious heroes, and the legend and tomb of Alexander are not as great as the courage, aspiration, strength, and impact of the men who fought in the Revolutionary War. Whitman beleives that these soldiers fight for freedom and equality laid the stepping stones for today's America. He seems to beleive that their contribution has a greater impact than Achilles, Ulysses, and Alexander.
Achilles is a Greek Mythological character who was a Trojan war hero in Homer's Illiad. Ulysses, Greek Odysseus, is another of Homer's Trojan war heroes. Alfred Lord Tennyson also wrote a poem about Ulysses, portraying him in a heroic fashion as well. Alexander was the Greek King of Macedon who was known for creating one of the largest empires in ancient history.
Wallabout Bay is one of the oldest areas of Brooklyn, which is now known as The Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument is erected in Fort Greene Park, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, consisting of a 100-foot (30 m)-wide granite staircase and a central Doric column 149 feet (45 m) in height. At the top is an eight-ton urn. It was designed by renowned architect Stanford White (1853–1906), and its design is similar to doric column monuments around the nation and the globe. The monument marks the site of a crypt for more than 11,500 prisoners of war who died in captivity, known as the prison ship martyrs during the revolutionary war. -Wikipedia
Harping takes an interesting meaning here as well. Whitman is making an allusion to the fact that he is harping on about the same things year after year. Parrot-like, he is repeating himself in his works, and is becoming dull in result. Whitman wants his works to convey his messages, but the longer he lives the more he will continue to harp on in his works. And, his crack'd voice of old age is not as strong in his poetry as his poetic voice was in his youth.
"More paralysis and heavier" refers to Whitman's declining health. In 1873 Whitman suffered a stroke, and was partially paralyzed in result. Whitman is concerned that in his 70th year he will suffer the same fate, and possibly worse
The dim, uncertain spectre has a double meaning for Whitman. Here he uses uncertain spectre as the unknown future that he cannot look upon, and he is questioning what the year will bring. But also, as seen in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word spectre has more than one meaning: Main Entry: spec·ter Variant(s): or spec·tre \ˈspek-tər\ Function: noun Etymology: French spectre, from Latin spectrum appearance, specter, from specere to look, look at — more at spy Date: 1605 1 : a visible disembodied spirit : ghost 2 : something that haunts or perturbs the mind : phantasm The definition of spectre that means a disembodied spirit: ghost suggests that Whitman speculates that he sees himself as a ghost, and sees that his future brings death. Furthermore, the next definition of spectre is someting that haunts or perturbs the mind. Although in many of his works Whitman reassures the reader that he is ready for death, this usage of spectre suggest that the though of death is haunting his mind still.
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.
Here Whitman is approaching his 70th birthday and wondering if this year will be his last. To continue to live, for Whitman, is the worser fate because all of his faculties are failing him, and he doesn't want to be left dull, parrot-like and old. For Whitman, to die will bring new experiences. Death would "stir the waters" and bring "placid skies and sun".
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.
A bard is a person who composed and recited epic or heroic poems. That being said, it seems here that Whitman wants to "tally" the greatest poets' acheivements. Whether their worth be in the creation of victorious or tragic heroes, metre or wit, metaphors and conceits, or rhyme, Whitman would trade all of these things for the power in one wave, or one breathe. For Whitman, the poetry of nature is much more important than the poetry of these bards.