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A Grand American Epic: Level 3 English

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A Grand American Epic

"Song of Myself," Walt Whitman's grand American Epic, is an extensive amalgamation of biography, sermon, and poetic meditation. His poetry reflects the vitality and growth of the early United States through his use of everyday people and situations to exemplify our growing democracy. He praised the songs of the diversity of our country and its people. He allows us the enjoyment of these experiences through our humanly senses.

Whitman says, "Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems," he is going to show his readers around to all the things through which poets receive their inspiration (Lauter 3011; line 25). "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 yourself" (3011; lines 27-29). We will not see the spectacles through another's eyes, but through our own, uninfluenced by opinions. "I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end, but I do not talk of the beginning or the end" (3011; lines 30-31). Here Whitman explains that he has heard what is being said by others concerning the aspects of life which he will be mentioning. He does not indulge in such discussion and intends on presenting an unbiased view for us to develop our own opinion free of influence.

Image One

The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,

The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,

The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,

The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow.

I am there, I help, I came stretch'd atop of the load,

I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,

I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,

And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

I am able to see a farm in the distance, particularly the barn with its loft filled with the scent of sweet fragrant hay for the animals enclosed to feed on. I can hear the low, gentle chorus of the cows, and horses within. I can smell the hay on the halted horse-drawn carriage, filled to the brim with the shadows of the autumn colors playing in the low sun. I can see Whitman struggling to stand on its mountain and grabbing a bale to lift, tumbling over in a heap, and sitting up with his hair covered and intertwined with strands of hay. I run to him laughing and help him up, brushing his gray wiry hair away from his smooth skinned face.

Image Two

Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,

Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,

In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,

Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-kill'd game,

Falling asleep on the gather'd leaves with my dog and gun by my

side.

I see a path running through the blue-green of the spruce evergreens. The familiar fragrance of pine enters my nostrils. I feel the cool crispness of the morning air. I hear a shot in the distance, rustling in the leaves on the ground, and the barking of a dog. I know that I am no longer alone. I wander through the trees toward the noise. I feel the sharp needles of a tree brush against my hand. After walking a time, I see Whitman in the clearing; his dog runs to me with his tail wagging and begins to smell me. Whitman is preparing his kill by stripping the deer's skin from its leg. He places the fresh meat on the hot, crackling fire to cook it and invites me to join him for the evening. I smell the meat as it cooks, and hear fat dripping and sizzling as it mixes in the flames. It is my job to keep the fire with wood aflame for the evening. After we eat the freshly cooked morsels, we both fall asleep satisfied in front of the fire, dog and gun in between.

Image Three

The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle

and scud,

My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from

the deck.

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me,

I tuck'd my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;

You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

As I am an invited passenger on deck, I can feel the waves crashing against the hull as we move. I smell and taste the salty air. The motions and sound of the engine makes it difficult for me to focus on what the fishermen are yelling to each other. We slow to a near halt and I see them ease the anchor from the bow. The boatmen drop their nets starboard into the water. They drop another net on the port as I watch from the stern to stay out of the way. I glance at the railing and see Whitman overlooking the sparkling water to the shore. I noticed him tucking his pant-legs into his rubber boots and run over to the nets to assist the group in raising them full of wiggling fish. It was a good catch, and I can smell the aromas while the cook is preparing a celebratory fresh fish dinner. The tasty cream fish chowder was my favorite of all the dishes.

Image Four

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,

the bride was a red girl,

Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,

they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets

hanging from

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