A Song Analysis by Walt Whitman
This edition collection of poems appeared in 1867. It is the workshop for the other versions that followed. “A Song” is not as well-known as some of Whitman’s other songs.
This one like many of his poems celebrates comradeship and nature. It appears in the Calamus section of the 1867 book. It does not appear in later additions. The poem praises the soldiers who fought for America’s freedom. The emphasis on comradeship grows throughout the four stanzas.
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It starts with life- long love grows to manly love and ends with high-towering love.
He uses lots of mages from nature as well including “trees along the rivers,” “along the shores,” “all over the prairies. ” This emphasis of the water is no coincidence as ships and those that worked on them fascinated Whitman. He loved ride the ferries and spend time along the East River in New York state. His patriotic side shines through this poem too with phrases like “the continent indissoluble,” “divine magnetic lands,” “O Democracy. His ideals of a united nation present in the poem, contrast with the country as it really was, with racial problems and disputes between the North and South. This ideal grew out of his visits with artime veterans after seeing the harm that segregation did to the country.
At very young age, this ideal emerged through his friendship with Tom Paine, who wrote Common Sense. Whitman wrote this poem shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation produced the freedom that many questioned could ever occur.
Keats, Bryant, and Emerson inspired much of his poetry and followed their examples especially in his newer editions of Leaves of Grass. In “A Song,” music tries to ring through the words. Whitman was a master at matching images with musical sounds.
The reader can almost hear the river through the trees or the song of the prairies. In the poem, his love for music reaches out to people. Music is universal and brings people of all races together.
Whitman seems to say that through song all nations can achieve these things. By replacing the “l” in this poem with songs or song, the reader sees how important song and music became to Whitman.
Whitman was largely self-taught learning his trade as a teenager. He worked in a print shop. He learned much about Journalism and grew to love writing in all its forms. Among other things, he was a schoolteacher, a Journalist, an editor. He also wrote fiction and essays.