Thursday, November 19, 2009


WALT WHITMAN “Song of Myself” (Leaves of Grass)

Who does Whitman sing to? How could you define the poem from a formal point of view?

I celebrate myself and sing myself
And what I assume you shall assume
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now, thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy (…)

EMILY DICKINSON “These are the Days when....” (Poem 130)

What is this poem about? Think about contrasts (life and death, joy and pain, cold and heat...) and about the relationship between the cycles of nature, the cycles of life and religion (death of nature, death of Christ)

These are the Days when Birds come back
A very few—a bird or two—
To take a backward look

These are the days when skies resume
The old-old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake,

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf

Oh Sacrament of summer days
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake—
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine

This is an extract from another poem by Dickinson. Which metaphors or
comparisons do you see in it?

Each that we lose takes a part of us
A crescent still abides
Which like the moon, some turbid night
Is summoned by the tides

EDGAR ALLAN POE “The Raven” (extracts)

Compare these extracts with Whitman’s from the point of view of form and content. Think of the themes, the stanzas, the rhythm and rhyme, the images …

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this, and nothing more,

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

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