Monday, April 16, 2012

Favourite Poem

My personal favorite poem by Walt Whitman is "When Last in the Dooryard Lilacs Bloomed." The poem is just so sad and beautiful that even with its abnormal length, I still wish it was longer. The poem was written about the death of Abraham Lincoln, who Whitman greatly admired. He writes about Lincoln's death as one would the death of a great friend, and because of this the poem has a very sweet sort of melancholy. I really love how sad the poem is, even though it is sort of a contrast to all of the joy contained in Whitman's other poems.

In one part of the poem that I particularly love Whitman describes death as his companion, walking on one side of him, and the knowledge of death as the companion on the other side. As he and his sad companions are out, they listen to the sad song of a bird, whose song Whitman interprets in his verses. This part is particularly sad for me, and the imagery is so vivid that I can easily imagine myself there. He also writes about death as a peaceful release from the troubles of the world, and sings a brief praise of it.

I know it may be a bit shallow, but I also like the poem because of its mention of lilacs. When I lived on Lake Petersburg, there were lilac trees all around the house, and they made the entire place smell beautifully. I never really liked them until a year or two after we moved away, but now when I smell them they remind me of my home, and I love them because of it, even if it does make me very sad now. The poem makes me wonder if I am not the only person who has sad associations with lilacs. Also, the way lilacs smell is so sweet and unique that they are perfect for a tender poem about the death of a friend.

Monday, April 2, 2012

... yeah.

So here begins yet another blog about the writing of Walt Whitman, or rather this time about Walt Whitman himself. His poem "Chanting the Square Deific" at first sounds totally and unreasonably arrogant, but when more thought is put into it it is easy to understand what he was trying to convey about his self, and likewise about all people.

The first impression of arrogance is true. Whitman was proud, and felt that he was great and special, and whoever grudges him for that feeling is wrong to do so. Everyone feels that they are special and great, but no one admits it because it sounds conceited. Really, for most people it is conceited, but not for Walt Whitman because he really was as good as he saw his self.

Then he goes on to elaborate on the four sides that make up his character, the sides that make him who he is. At first he presents his self as time, personified something like God the father. He passes judgment on all who sin, in the end taking their lives. He has no mercy, only justice.

Next he presents himself as Christ, caring for the suffering, and suffering himself to spread his love for humanity. He also here writes of his immortality. Even though he may die, his words and ideas never will because they are so important.

Here in the third stanza Whitman departs from typical Christian views and includes the devil in his diety. This may look bad on the surface, but Whitman was not writing about ideals, he was writing about his self. He may have been proud, but he was not too proud to admit that there was some darker and more warlike aspects to his character. He does not portray Satan as all bad either, implying that he had sympathy for those who were oppressed (Oliver).

Lastly, he takes into account that "Holy Spirit" that Catholics and perhaps many other denominations are accustomed to. He describes it as "life", which should not be taken as lightly as some people would. "Life" does not describe the physical quality of being alive in this poem. instead it describes the emotion that being alive inspires. A person can spend entire days trying to describe just how that emotion feels, but the best anyone ever comes up with "I feel alive." That is okay. Whitman would have understood.

Whitman is explaining all of the different sides of his personality in this poem. He sees that these different sides are present in everyone else as well, although perhaps not in the same proportions. No person is one thing all of the time, and as arrogant as comparing his self to Gods sounds, the comparison is an accurate way to describe his character.

Oliver, Charles M. "'Chanting the Square Deific'." Critical Companion to Walt Whitman: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. April 3, 2012. CCWW082&SingleRecord=True.

Whitman, Walt. "Chanting the Square Deific." The Walt Whitman Archive. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. .

Journal 29

When it comes to myself, I am clueless. There is something of a duality to my nature, and because the two sides seem very much to be opposites, I am sort of confused about the subject. One side is very peaceful, very much a Transcendentalist. I sit outside and admire the way leaves look when the sun shines through them, and I read books about ideas and philosophies. There are times when I feel completely happy (althought that is not a strong enough word), both contented and excited at the same time because the world is so beautiful and life is so incredible and wonderful. Then there is the hamartia of that side of my character, and it causes me pain so intense that it is hard to bear. That fatal flaw is that despite the lack of thought I am surrounded by on a daily basis, I still care about the people around me. I want to hate them because that would be much easier to deal with, but instead I find myself wishing they just stepped outside their mindless chatter to think for a little while. A little bit of thought can make all of the difference between being a person who knows what they really care about and one who would be depressed by their lives if they thought about it, so perhaps it is better that they do not think. As it is, thinkng has become a painful habit to get into because so few people do it. If you are not careful, you step too far away from normal almost-thoughts, and forever alienate yourself from the people around you. That is my hamartia, that I am alone and that I care about it.

The other side of my self is stoic and strong, whose motto is that if one must have failure and weakness, it had better never be admitted. I read books about the world and how it works, and no matter what make time to practice the precise art of hitting things. My other side does not dislike conflict, but this side thrives on it, craves it. Anything to be fought is not only precious, but sacred. I fight though work I do not understand, I fight through exhaustion to finish what I start. The people and events that would cause me pain as a Transcendentalist do not even register in this side of me. This is the side that takes the other side's pain and makes something out of it. This is the side that keeps me going when I have had three weeks of a bookbag that would break a lesser student's shoulder, and equally heavy subjects to learn from the books inside. If I am alone, this side glorys in it. One person against the world. That, my friends, is a fight.

Some things do not change between the two sides of my nature. I always have the same political ideas, and always the same taste in books and music. Sometimes my ideas about people in general change, but that is probably due to the change in attitude more than anything else.

Maybe without both sides I would be unbalanced. I have no use for intermediates, and always alternate between poles. Maybe the different sides just reflect the different sides of life that I enjoy. I enjoy both thought and conflict, the pen and the sword so to speak. No matter what part of life I am observing, I always admire the... there are just no words to adequately describe that feeling that comes from knowing that you are alive and the world is beautiful. Knowing you are able to observe, and appreciate, and feel. And to a lesser extent, that I have poured my entire soul out in a blog no one will read.