Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman was a follower of the two Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson andHenry David Thoreau. He believed in Emerson and Thoreaus Trascendentalist beliefs. Whitman believed that individualism stems from listening to ones inner voice and that oneslife is guided by ones intuition. The Transcendentalist centered on the divinity of eachindividual; but this divinity could be self-discovered only if the person had the independence ofmind to do so. Whitman lent himself to this concept of independence.
He once said,Everythingon earth has the divine spark within and thus is all part of a whole.(web.pg2trans.) Thisphilosophy of individualism led to an optimistic emphasis on society.Because Whitmanimmodestly praised the human body and glorified the senses, Walt Whitmans poems assert theworth of the individual and the oneness of all humanity. Walt Whitman was an American poet who was born on May 31, 1819, near Huntington,N.
Y. He was the second of a family of nine children. His father was a carpenter and his mother,who he a had a close relationship,was a housewife. When he was four years old, his familymoved to Brooklyn, where he attended public school for six years before being apprenticed to aprinter. In 1835 he began teaching in country schools. After several yrs. spent at various jobs,including building houses, he began writing a new kind of poetry and thereafter neglectedbusiness. Shortly after, in 1955 Whitman issued the first of many editions of Leaves of Grass, avolume of poetry in a new kind of versification, far different from his sentimental rhymed verseof the 1840s.
Andrews 2Whitmans first poem in Leaves of Grass is called Song of Myself. In this poemWhitman writes about himself and as is characteristic of Whitman, the self becomes ametaphor for humanity as a whole. Whitman came to no conclusion and does not satisfy thereaders of this poem. In Song of Myself Whitman tells us that the absolute unity of matter andspirit, and all which that unity involves, is the dominant conception of this first and mostcharacteristic period. Whitman said, The true poet is not the follower of beauty, but the augustof beauty. (pg 362 Crit).
Whitmans Song of Myself was capable of making whoever withesto be so, wiser, happier, better; and it does these not by acting on the intelect, by telling us whatis best for us, what we ought to do and avoid doing, but by acting directly on the moral natureitself, and elevating and purifying that.Song of Myself is the most complete utterance of Whitmans first great conception oflife.No innovations must be permitted on the stern severities of out liberty and ourequality.(web.page 2 USR) That was the message that Whitman was trying to get through topeople by reading his poems. In most of Whitmans poems including Song of MyselfWhitman appears to be surrounded by women and children, and by young men, and by commonobjects and qualities. He gives to each just what belongs to it, neither more or less.
The personnearest him, that person he ushers hand in hand with himself. Song of Myself was the poemthat I believe revieled the most about Whitmans attitude and beliefs. In Song of MyselfWhitman celebrates individuality and his beliefs of the existence of a shared universal self orsoul. This also showes how he really believed in Transcendentalism which stated stong intenseindividualism and self-reliance. Critics who didnt believe in Whitmans beliefs rejected hisoptimistic outlook on humanity and life. They declared such optimism naive and unrealistic.
They felt humans were depraved and had to stuggle for goodness. They feared the people whodesired complete individualism would give into the worse angles of mans nature. They viewedWhitmans Transcendentalism as selfish and impractal.
Andrews 3Whitmans Leaves of Grass was made up of 11 other poems that were just asinconclusive as Song of Myself. They were all written to express Whitmans belief ofTranscendentalism. In the Leaves of Grass are the facts of eternity and immortality, largelytreated. Leaves of Grass was an attemped, as they are, of a naive, masculine, and affectionateperson, to cast into literature not only his own grit and arrogance, but his own flesh and form. His whole work, his life, manners, friendlyships, writings, all have among their leading purposesan evident purpose to stamp a new type of character, namely