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Song of Myself: Walt Whitman

Guided Reading

Note the change in tone in lines 4-5 and 12-13.

Use an online dictionary to define the following terms: creed, abeyance, effuse

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 loaf and invite my soul,

5

I lean and loaf 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,

10

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,

15

Nature without check with original energy

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands,

How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more

than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green

20

stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,

Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see

and remark, and say Whose?

25

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the

vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,

And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,

Growing among black folks as among white,

30

Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff,I give them the same,I

receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,

It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,

35

It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,

It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon

out of their mothers’ laps,

And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,

40

Darker than the colorless beards of old men,

Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,

And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for

nothing.

45

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and

women,

And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken

soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?

50

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,

The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,

And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the

end to arrest it,

55

And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my

gab and my loitering.

60

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scudof day holds back for me,

It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d

wilds,

65

It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

70

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

Missing me one place search another,

10

I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Writing Prompt:

In your own words, summarize the main idea of “Song of Myself

.”

Using three supporting details from the poem, explain how Whitman expresses his views regarding the continuous cycle of life and death.

  
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