Song of Myself
Section 24 of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is so strong, yet so subtle. As forceful as the words are, Whitman also takes a passive tone in revealing himself through the verses. Section 24 starts out by describing the poet by name:
Walt Whitman, a kosmos…Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding….Through me forbidden voices….I believe in the flesh and the appetites, Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles….Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from, The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer….If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it….I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious, Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy.”
Whitman describes his own personal relationship with everything else in the world. Through his words, he gives his readers a descriptive view into his soul, so that they see his views on life and the world we live in. Section 24 reflects Whitman’s beliefs about equality and why nature is so important.
Whitman uses a few different poetic devices to show himself through the poem. At first glance, a reader might believe that Whitman wrote this poem out of vanity. However, Whitman corrects the reader early on. In the first stanza, he says that he is like everybody else and is “no more modest than immodest.”
The reader is then informed about why Whitman is writing the poem, as he talks about his state of mind. He talks about “doors” in the second stanza, in which he tells the readers to open their minds and listen to what he is really trying to tell them.
Whitman’s doors represent what keeps the mind from expanding too far. He tells his readers to unlock and tear down these doors. Whitman believes the key to the locks on our souls is nature. This is one of the major themes of the poems, and is mentioned early on because of its significance.
The third stanza discusses Whitman’s theory of equality. He talks about how he feels what is done to every person. He is saying that if you hurt someone, you are also hurting him, because we are all connected.
The “afflatus” in the fourth stanza is Whitman’s inspiration, which flows through him and takes over his entire body and mind.
The rest of Whitman’s theories are based on these first four stanzas. The next three stanzas go back to his beliefs about equality. The first is an emotional outburst that shows how deeply he feels about equality.
In the second, he acts as a general speaker for everyone and everything in the world, launching into a descriptive speech about everyone and everything in the world, including slaves, dwarfs, fog, and stars.
In Whitman’s opinion, he is qualified to speak for all these things because they are all a part of him. Through his existence and his very being, he believes that he is strongly connected to the entire universe and, because of this connection, he is affected by everything in the world.
In the next stanza, Whitman changes these voices so they are clearly heard by everyone. He talks about his complete love for nature. The beginning of this stanza starts: “I believe in the flesh and the appetites.” Perhaps he did this to make it more raunchy, and in turn, more interesting.
Whitman attracts the reader’s interest with his words. For example, he takes basic natural images and makes them erotic and sexual. When he shouts: “Firm masculine colter it shall be you!” And then continues to state simple natural images, it makes the tone far more controversial that it had been before.
The maple tree has “trickling sap,” the brook is now “sweaty,” and the wind has “soft-tickling genitals.” These terms and scenes from nature now seem taboo and naughty, enticing the reader to read on.
Whitman did not choose his words based on humor or shock value, but instead for the way they fit within the context of the poem. He used shocking imagery in this section to get his point across. We, as humans, are very sexual creatures, and by relating sexual words with natural images, Whitman is making everything in nature relate to one another.
If the reader was convinced, at this point, that Whitman did not write this section out of vanity, he may doubt himself when he reads Whitman’s next words. Whitman calls himself a miracle. However, he is quick to show why he uses that term.
Whitman proclaims that he is more divine than “churches, bibles, and all the creeds.” Yet he says this is only so because he is part of nature. Therefore, he is better than any material thing in the world that was not created by nature.
Whitman says that he is no better than any other living thing. In his words, he says that he is part of everything in the universe and so is everybody else. Whitman uses epistrophe in this stanza to emphasize the words “it shall be you.”
In the end, Whitman says that he would take a morning-glory any day over books. This line emphasizes the superiority of nature over material things. The following stanzas go on and on, glorifying nature and how it is a part of him. Whitman’s Section 24 shows a deep love for nature and a strong belief that it is a powerful force that affects everybody and everything.
The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction,
The heav’d challenge from the east that moment over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!”
Whitman uses both humans and nature as unique symbols of humanity. He even uses himself as a symbol of all of humanity. He sees the ideas of humanity coming from him and says, “Through me many long dumb voices…Through me forbidden voices,.” He represents everybody.
Whitman describes himself as a “kosmos” – which means a universe. Combined within the universe that he embodies, he sees the “pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me.” He uses himself to represent everybody.
Whitman is not vain. Section 25 is the first section in which he describes himself by name. Even in this section, he says it in a half-comical way, as “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son.”
He uses the reader as himself and even allows “nature” to speak “without check, with original energy,” which is without constraints of either poetic convention or social decorum.
Whitman says so much in this poem about life and the world. His main point is equality and the longevity of humanity.
Whitman shows that he is an imperfect being, as is everybody else, but that the imperfections make him real. In this section, he describes how no one is any better than anyone else.We are all one is a theme in this poem section. “Whoever degrades another degrades me…. And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.”
Whitman says that we all share a voice or voices. We all cry out in the voice of the slave and the prostitute because all beings share a connected voice. Whitman takes on these voices to confront controversial topics, which he says are all a part of being human.
In Whitman’s poem, he shows that sex is just another creation of God, as is everything else that is natural. “Through me forbidden voices, Voices of sexes and lusts….voices veiled, and I remove the veil,” he says. Whitman says that it is all right to explore the forbidden and become a sexual voice.
Whitman gives a voice to those…