Excerpt from Song of Myself

- By Walt Whitman
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Walter Whitman (/ˈhwɪtmən/; May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.[1] His work was controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sensuality. Whitman's own life came under scrutiny for his presumed homosexuality. Born in Huntington on Long Island, as a child and through much of his career he resided in Brooklyn. At age 11, he left formal schooling to go to work. Later, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, and a government clerk. Whitman's major poetry collection, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money and became well known. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. During the American Civil War, he went to Washington, D.C. and worked in hospitals caring for the wounded. His poetry often focused on both loss and healing. On the death of Abraham Lincoln, whom Whitman greatly admired, he wrote his well known poems, "O Captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", and gave a series of lectures. After a stroke towards the end of his life, Whitman moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. When he died at age 72, his funeral was a public event.[2][3]

Excerpt from Song of Myself

1
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.
 
 
2
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are
   crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
 
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
   distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised
   and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
 
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread,
   crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the
   passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
   dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the
   eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs
   wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the
   fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
   from bed and meeting the sun.
 
 
3
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d
   the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
 
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
   origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
   millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
   look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
   spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
   from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
 
i Loafe – remain idle; do nothing
ii Abeyance – suspension; a temporary state of inactivity
iii Reckon – calculated or figured out
iv Spectre – ghost

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Word Lists:

Distillation : the action of purifying a liquid by a process of heating and cooling

Abeyance : a state of temporary disuse or suspension

Trill : a quavering or vibratory sound, especially a rapid alternation of sung or played notes

Respiration : the action of breathing

Perfume : a fragrant liquid typically made from essential oils extracted from flowers and spices, used to impart a pleasant smell to one's body or clothes

Supple : bending and moving easily and gracefully; flexible

Atom : the basic unit of a chemical element.

Suspension : the temporary prevention of something from continuing or being in force or effect

Fragrance : a pleasant, sweet smell

Filter : a porous device for removing impurities or solid particles from a liquid or gas passed through it

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Rating: A

Words: 549

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