Song of Justin

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Through me forbidden voices,

Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil,

Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur’d.

~ “Song of Myself” p. 211

I chose this passage because I like to consider myself a free spirit. Most people claim to be one, but so few actually practice what they preach. Whitman seems to be the real deal when it comes to removing whatever veils society likes to keep over things, and talking about taboo subjects frankly. He explores issues of race and sexuality in a way that was shocking for the time (even shocking to some people now) and does it so unapologetically that I have to give him props. I also like to think of this passage as his way of saying he’ll give a voice to those who aren’t allowed to speak for themselves (slaves being one example). For all of Whitman’s talk about egotism and whatnot, I find his writing to be quite altruistic.

Hello world!

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Haha, wow, did this site generate a first post for me automatically? That is so sci-fi.

Image Gloss: Stevedore

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“The judge with hand tight to the desk, his shaky lips pronouncing a death-sentence,

The heave’e’yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves

…the refrain of the anchor-lifters…”

~ Leaves of Grass, page 54

This portion of the poem, in which Whitman describes various sounds, is probably my favorite in the entire piece. Even though these particular sounds would be jarring (alarm bells, workpeople laughing, steam-whistles, etc.) there is something incredibly soothing about the way he writes about them. I’m sure it’s Whitman’s finesse with words that is responsible for what seems to be a contradiction, because the language and composition is as beautiful as the actual sounds are ugly.

But anyway, stevedores. The word is both a noun and verb, and relates to the process of loading/unloading cargo onto/from a ship. Below is a picture of a stevedore, hard at work:

I was drawn to the word because it was one I had never heard before, and I thought it looked and sounded cool. It sounds like a rich person’s yacht or something, so when I researched it, I was surprised to learn that stevedores are just blue collar workers. Whitman seems to exalt the working class not just in this section, but throughout the whole poem. If find that refreshing after reading so much poetry and literature that focuses so much on the lives of the aristocracy/privileged classes. I like that Whitman lauds the common man by writing about him in such elevated language.

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