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And that a kelson of the creation is love; (p 31)

What is a kelson?

a structure running the length of a ship and fastening the timbers or plates of the floor to its keel.
n. variant spelling of keelson .
Kelson 2James Rumsey’s Steamboat Design–from his drawing in 1788
Kelson 1

http://chestofbooks.com/crafts/mechanics/Engineer-Mechanic-Encyclopedia-Vol1/Boat.html accessed September 8, 2009.

The Kelson so is a wooden vessel that lies parallel with its keel. What is a keel you ask? A keel can refer to either of two parts, a structural element, or a hydrodynamic element. These parts overlap. As the laying down of the keel is the initial step in construction of a ship, the construction is dated from this event.[1] Now back to the kelson or keelson. The kelson traverses above the timbers, frames, or in a larger vessl, the floor. It is fastened to the keel to impart additional longitudinal stiffness but is primarily used to bind the longitudinal members. In an open boat, the kelson is often fastened directly to the keel. [2]

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers

and the women my sisters and lovers,

And that a kelson of the creation is love;

And limitless ae leaces stiff or drooping in the fields,

And brown ants in the little wells benath them,

And mossy scabs of the wormfence, and heaped stones, and

elder and mullen and pokeweed.

 Whitman’s choice of words in this section of “Song of Myself” are quite interesting. He seems to illustrate a oneness with human kind and nature but writing about it in the form of a structure, a kelson. Whitman finds a formula in this unity and understands that there is a greater plan or a structure to it all, whether that it is designed by god or science, there is order to the plan.


[1]keel.” The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea. Oxford University Press. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 8 Sep. 2009

[2] Ibid.

Caryn for September 8th

Thus far in each Whitman piece we have read, he evokes an ethereal view of the nation. It seems metaphysical and metaphorical. He weaves images of nature that seem to represent Whitman’s utopian ideals of national pride or guidelines of what should and should not be.

In his “Democratic Vistas” Whitman notes “Investigating here, we see not that it is a little thing we have, in having the  bequeath’d libraries, countless shelves of volumes, records, &c.; yet how serious the danger, depending entirely on them or the bloodless vein, the nerveless arm, the false application, at second or third hand.” (p1017). This leads me to believe two things, first, that it is important to remember that academia, and scholarly sources are not the “end all be all” of historical, political, and national information. People must consume and interpret this information for themselves rather than regurgitating what others have taught them. The reality is that most historical information is catalogued, researched, and interpreted by middle class white males who do not necessarily provide an accurate account. I believe that Whitman asks us to challenge this authority.

Secondly, that Whitman wants us to remember that we need to understand a broad scope of history rather than surrounding ourselves with the information so that others can see it. A parallel idea that can be found in his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”;

Behold though you as bad as the rest

Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping, of people

Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and

   trimm’d faces,

Behold a secret silent loathing and despair. (p 306)

Whitman seems to comment on his fellow ferry travelers noting that though they are dressed in their best, they are still in pain, hiding behind a façade.

It is interesting to compare this to the early colonial literature of people like John Smith or Sir Francis Drake who sensationalized the progress of the colonies and their interactions with Native Americans in order to convince further colonization and funding from England. Whitman dares us to look past this embellished façade that Americans hold on to so dearly an d think for ourselves. The poet seems to peel away the layer of humanity to strike the very core of the person or in this case the nation.

Caryn for September 1st

In “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman toys with the comparison between god, the poet, and the man; all of which are interchangeable.  His “I” is a general “I”, he is every man, every women, in every shape, color, and class.

As the poet, he is the constant observer, chronicling every aspect of life, from east to west, north to south, mountains to seashore. Through his observations, he constructs and image to the reader that suggests and open minded view of the world. He talks of intermarriage between a Native American Girl and a trapper and a runaway slave that he nurses back to health (p 35).  This perception of his world evokes and ideal of what should and should not be, rather than what was truly going on at the time.

Though in the very beginning of the poem Whitman intentionally draws attention to himself as an individual: “the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it, and like it” (p 27) and constantly refers to “I” and “Me” throughout, it does not seem to imply one actual person but more of a universal collection of people and things; a widening scope that spans throughout time, space, life, death, and everything in between. He reminds the reader that death does not make people or things disappear but rather “all goes onward and outward…and nothing collapses”. (p 32)

Whitman maintains the principle theme of grass throughout the poem explaining that grass is everywhere, just as god is everywhere, it does not discriminate between races or sexes. “This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, this is the common air that bathes the globe.” (p 43) Meaning that god does not discriminate, he and “I” love all and are all equally.  He goes on to remind us that there should be no judge, that we are not better than the other.

“Song of Myself” at the surface seems to be a crisis of Whitman’s personal identity, but once the spectrum is broadened, Whitman challenges the reader to experience life and divinity for themselves, not through teachings in school, the bible, or even by parents.  Whitman urges us  not to fear death, “I depart as air” he explains, “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, if you want to look for me under your bootsoles.” (p 88) He illustrates the fact that we are all creatures of god, constantly reflecting gods work and when we depart this earth, we do not disappear.

Song of Caryn

Caryn in Color

This is the trill of a thousand clear cornets and scream of

the octave flute and strike of triangles

I play not a march for victors only…I play great marches

For conquered and slain persons.

I sound triumphal drums for the dead…I fling through

my embouchures the loudest and gayest music to them,

Vivas to those who have failed, and to those whose war vessels

sank in the sea, and those themselves who sand in the sea,

And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome

heroes, and the numberless unknown heroes equal to

the greatest heroes known.

whitman frontispieceIn his frontispiece, Whitman has a nonchalant, inviting expression. A hand on the hip usually implies a matter-a-fact attitude, almost childlike. Whitman projects an air of casualness with his top button opened and his tipped hat.

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