Leaves of Grass: Democratic Themes

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Leaves of Grass:  Democratic Themes       

 

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer I Hear America Singing       In his Preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman states, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem”.  Whitman was the ultimate Transcendentalist/ Romantic.  He united democratic themes and subject matter with free verse form.  In Leaves of Grass, Whitman celebrates unity of all life and people.  He embraces diversity of geography, culture, work, sexuality, and beliefs.  Whitman’s impact solidifies American dreams of independence, freedom, and fulfillment, and transforms them for larger spiritual meaning.  Whitman values hard work and being humble and non-egotistical.  His ideals are things such as good health, soul, and the love of nature.

            Whitman expresses his celebration of working class democracy through the “varied carols” of men and women who take pride in their occupations in the poem “I Hear America Singing”.  For example, he writes:

                         I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

                        Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and

                        strong,

                        The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

                        The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off

                        work,

                        The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand

                        singing on the steamboat deck...  (lines1-5)

Whitman writes about the diversity of work here and the people who take pride in what they do.  His use of imagery creates a vivid picture of hard working people.  Whitman modified standard “King’s English” diction and abandoned traditional rhyme schemes and formal meters.  Free verse is apparent throughout Whitman’s works, which he patterned after ancient poetic forms, incantations, and praises...
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