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Walt Whitman, poet of the body : stylistics of (dis)embodiment Hubert, Denise Dawn 2007

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W A L T W H I T M A N , POET OF T H E B O D Y : STYLISTICS OF (DIS)EMBODIMENT  by DENISE D A W N H U B E R T B . A . , Concordia University, 2004  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T OF T H E REQUIREMENTS FOR T H E DEGREE OF M A S T E R OF A R T S in T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (English)  T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A A p r i l 2007 © Denise Dawn Hubert, 2007  ABSTRACT  This thesis proposes a unified theory for reading and interpreting Leaves of Grass (1891-92), by American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). This theory proceeds from the premises that spiritual themes are foundational for the poems, and that Whitman's chief poetic aim is to lead readers toward a spiritual understanding o f human experience. This theory proposes that the material and spiritual realms coexist and interact continuously, and that human comprehension o f an organized, coherent cosmic scheme is possible within the framework o f material, temporal life, thanks to the innate divinity o f the human being. This project employs linguistic pragmatic theories to examine the subjectivity o f Whitman's speaker's consciousness in terms o f how it situates and represents itself, and how it relates to the real and conceptual worlds around it. I analyse cohesion ( M . A . K . Halliday) and flow o f consciousness (Wallace Chafe) i n Whitman's poetry to illustrate that he deliberately employs stylistics o f disembodiment and de-situation to shift the focus o f his poetry away from the material world, toward the spiritual realm. This analysis is broken into themed segments:. 1) the speaker and his conception o f his self (poems analysed include "Song o f M y s e l f and "Starting from Paumanok"); 2) the speaker's interpersonal relationships (poems analysed include "I Sing the B o d y Electric," "The Sleepers," and "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand"); and 3) the speaker's interaction with his nation and cosmos (poems analysed include "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," and " A Noiseless Patient Spider").  These poems reveal a speaker with privileged conceptual access to the spiritual realm, which he interprets for readers, hoping this w i l l spark them to develop their own cosmic awareness. The speaker redefines elements o f the material world, like the body and its desires, or political life in a democracy, illustrating that these have spiritual significance; they forge connections between souls. Consequently, these spiritual connections valorize mundane pursuits. Moreover, this process o f redefinition, or translation, charges his often eroticized discourse with spirituality, rendering it appropriate  as public, national  discourse for the United States in the latter half o f the nineteenth-century.  - iii -  T A B L E OF CONTENTS  Abstract  ii  Table o f Contents  iv  List o f Abbreviations  vi  Acknowledgments  vii  Chapter I - Introduction  1  1.1  A divided self  1  1.2  Cultural context  5  1.3  Critical context  21  1.4  Methodology  28  1.5  K e y theses  44  Chapter II - The Speaker  46  2.1  Starting points: "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f  46  2.2  Disembodied translation  53  2.3  The divine speaker and the spiritual project  71  Chapter III - Interpersonal Relationships  ..  3.1  (Dis)embodied bodies i n contact  3.2  Placelessness and the platonic erotic: "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the B o d y  82  Electric" 3.3  82  86  From Eros to Socrates to Whitman's speaker: the function o f the poet in "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w i n Hand"  Chapter I V ^ The Speaker, the Nation, the Cosmos  - iv -  105 122  4.1  The speaker and his world  122  4.2  A poet suspended: "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" .  125  4.3  The spiritual democratic merge: "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" .  4.4  138  The cosmic poet confronting his cosmos: " A Noiseless Patient Spider" . . . . 147  Chapter V - Conclusion  153  5.1  Parting words: "So Long!"  . . 153  5.2  Summary and conclusions  162  5.3  Further research  166  Bibliography  169  - v -  LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS  A l l poems by Walt Whitman cited in this thesis are from the W . W . Norton & C o . edition of Leaves of Grass and Other Writings, edited by Michael M o o n (2002). Throughout this thesis, Whitman passages are cited by title abbreviation and line numbers. Abbreviations and their corresponding titles, as well as page numbers from the Norton Leaves of are listed below. A l l other texts cited are by author and page number.  BE  "I Sing the B o d y Electric" (81-87)  CBF  "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" (135-140)  NPS  " A Noiseless Patient Spider" (377)  SL  "So Long!" (422-424)  SM  "Song o f M y s e l f ' (26-78)  SP  "Starting from Paumanok" (15-25)  TS  "The Sleepers" (356-664)  WHH  "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand" (99-100)  WLL  "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (276-283)  - vi -  Grass,  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  M y supervisory committee at the University o f British Columbia, Drs. Janet Giltrow, Sandra Tome, and M a r k Vessey, have been extremely helpful throughout the long process o f planning, researching, and writing this thesis. To each I extend my thanks for their encouragement, guidance and patience. M y supervisor, D r . Giltrow, has been endlessly supportive, and I have appreciated her continuing curiosity and enthusiasm. I must thank her especially for her careful critical reading o f m y drafts and for her perceptive feedback. Dr. Tome has also been an excellent critical reader, and I have appreciated her suggestions throughout the course o f m y graduate work at U B C . Finally, I must thank Dr. Vessey for his criticism and honesty, and for helping me keep things in perspective. Several other faculty members at the University o f British Columbia have been instrumental i n helping me think through this project and in encouraging me to persist at my research and writing. I am appreciative for the help o f Dr. Richard Cavell, Dr. M a r y Chapman, D r . Elizabeth Hodgson, Dr. Christina Lupton, and Dr. Michael Zeitlin, who have each asked, or answered, some very helpful questions. In addition, I am grateful to Louise Soga, the Department o f English Graduate Secretary at U B C , who has answered administrative questions I did not even know I needed to ask throughout the course o f m y studies. M y research and the writing o f this thesis was funded in part by a Canada Graduate Scholarship—Master's, granted by the  - vii -  Social  Sciences and Humanities  Research Council o f Canada. Without this funding, neither m y research nor my graduate work would have ever taken flight. Chapter II o f this thesis was developed from an article I wrote, "Where's Walt? Situating the Poet-Speaker i n his Nation," which was published i n the Mickle Review  (visit <>).  Street  Some o f the original article's phrasing  remains intact i n small portions scattered throughout the chapter, and I am grateful to the Mickle  Street Review for granting copyright permission to use this material. Finally, I must acknowledge a number o f people whose contributions to the  development and completion o f this work cannot be measured by the text itself. Dr. Katharine Streip at Concordia University is responsible for m y interest in Whitman; without her encouragement, I would never have taken the notion into m y head to pursue graduate work. M y parents, Cheryl and Denis Hubert, and m y brother, Shaun Hubert, have been unwavering i n their demand for progress i n the writing o f these many pages. M y colleagues at Kwantlen University College and m y friends, particularly Laura Estrada and Gorsharn Toor, have been unflagging in their warm enthusiasm and muchappreciated encouragement. To all o f these individuals, I am grateful. Lastly and most importantly, I must recognize the affection and support o f m y partner, James Chilton. Without him, there would be no clean dishes i n our cupboards, no food i n our refrigerator, and neither ink nor paper in our printer. J i m , throughout m y writing process you have made daily living a pleasure—there can be no greater gift. Words cannot express my thanks.  - viii -  Chapter I C H A P T E R I - INTRODUCTION  This chapter discusses the inspiration and methodology for this analysis of Walt Whitman's stylistics in Leaves of Grass. In addition, it offers a review of recent criticism i of Whitman's oeuvre significant to this study, and a brief overview of events in the poet's life significant to his worldview and poetic project.  1.1 A D I V I D E D S E L F  When I visited Walt Whitman's tomb in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, NJ in April 2005, the lilacs were already in bloom. A small monument to the poet before his grave bears a memorial inscription and some of the final lines of perhaps his most famous poem, "Song of Myself:  W A L T WHITMAN  M A Y 31, 1819—MARCH 26, 1892  A U T H O R OF L E A V E S OF GRASS. T H E MOST E X T R A O R D I N A R Y PIECE OF WIT A N D WISDOM T H A T A M E R I C A HAS Y E T CONTRIBUTED. HIS LIFE WAS A N AFFIRMATION OF F R E E D O M , HIS POETRY WAS A C E L E B R A T I O N OF LIFE, A N D HIS PHILOSOPHY WAS A PREPARATION FOR D E A T H .  Chapter I  I D E P A R T A S AIR, I S H A K E M Y W H I T E L O C K S A T THE R U N A W A Y SUN, I E F F U S E M Y F L E S H I N E D D I E S , A N D D R I F T IT I N L A C Y JAGS.  I B E Q U E A T H M Y S E L F T O THE DIRT T O G R O W F R O M THE GRASS I LOVE, IF Y O U W A N T M E A G A I N L O O K F O R M E U N D E R YOUR  BOOT-SOLES.  H o w ironic and appropriate that on the threshold o f his grave he should contradict himself. W e w i l l never find Whitman beneath our boot-soles. The poet is buried in a granite mausoleum, his casket closed into a cement vault. The last thing his body w i l l ever do is return to the earth to nourish the grass—"the beautiful uncut hair o f graves" ( S M 110). Indeed, his flesh has drifted nowhere but into dust sealed in cement. Y e t this seems appropriate, as Whitman also asks i n "Song o f Myself," "Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes)" (1324-6). The issue is more complex than a case o f simple contradictions between what Whitman wrote and what he did, or between what his intention was and what the facts o f the matter are. Certainly we cannot say that the Whitman buried i n a tomb is the character Walt who bequeaths himself to the dirt, and who is the speaker throughout Leaves of Grass.  It is  well acknowledged by critics that we cannot hold Whitman to his verse; indeed,  Chapter I throughout his life, he is known to have repeatedly made a distinction between himself as a person and the speaker o f his poems, as autobiographical as his verse may seem. Moreover, critics generally concur that the revisions to Leaves of Grass over its nine publications throughout Whitman's lifetime serve in many ways not only literary or poetic ends, but also to distance the character Walt from the author Whitman. In Walt Whitman's America:  A Cultural  Biography,  David S. Reynolds offers an example o f this  process in the placement o f images in the Leaves of Grass text. Reynolds points out that Whitman used images reflecting his aging appearance i n successive editions printed throughout his lifetime. However, with the 1881 edition, the image that originally appeared in the first 1855 edition makes a return, preceding "Song o f Myself." Reynolds suggests that the daguerreotype o f a young Whitman i n workingman's clothes identifies the poem's celebration o f personality with the youthful self-acclaiming bard, not the elderly poet known to neighbours and friends. Reynolds argues that this is an attempt on Whitman's part to separate his poetry, and especially his speaker Walt, from the reality o f his own life and personality (Walt Whitman's America  While  we  should expect  535).  a distinction between  author  and  speaker,  the  contradictions that emerge between Whitman's attitudes and those represented i n his poetry are also carried over into the identity o f Walt, the speaker. A s noted earlier, i n "Song o f M y s e l f he readily admits that he too contradicts himself. Certainly, the contradictions o f Leaves  of Grass  urge further investigation, but in this study o f  Whitman, contradiction serves simply as a place to begin; it is the tip o f a much larger iceberg o f related themes. I w i l l focus on two interconnected contradictions. The first o f these contradictions relates to the corporeality o f the speaker, Walt. In "Song o f Myself,"  Chapter I he claims, "I am the poet o f the B o d y and I am the poet o f the Soul" (422). Some critics have noted that Whitman gives as much, i f not more attention to an unorthodox, but not controversial, portrayal o f the cosmic soul and spiritual relations, as he does to the body and interpersonal relations. Meanwhile, a great many studies consider Whitman's speaker's embodiment and his interactions with other bodies portrayed i n the poems. Whitman was several times censured for obscenity, and in many circles his book was banned shortly after its publication. Whitman's liberal attitudes toward the body and sexuality caught the attention o f his generation and earned him a great deal o f negative publicity; these attitudes still intrigue critics today. However, only a few critics have noted the fluidity with which Whitman treats interacting bodies. In this study, I w i l l examine the fluid language used to develop both the body and soul—language that fundamentally reveals the speaker as a disembodied entity, physically separated from others and from his own corporeality. The second contradiction I w i l l explore relates to the location o f the speaker. Whitman set out to bring a true American voice to a fledgling American literature, and his efforts earned him a legacy as the American bard, singer o f the songs o f democracy. The cultural work Whitman's poetry has performed in America is undeniable. Thanks to his writing, he is seen as the iconic American everyman—he is one o f the rough workingmen, he is self-defined, and an active citizen participating in a democracy, in touch with the people and territories o f his nation.  In an era o f triple-barreled literary eminences who uttered their names i n Jovian trochees and dactyls—William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James  Chapter I Russell Lowell—Walter Whitman had chosen to follow the populist examples o f A n d y Jackson, K i t Carson, and Davy Crockett. (Kaplan 200)  Whitman called himself simply Walt. Because o f his connection to the United States and its people, we expect Whitman's language to situate his speaker within the identifiable landscape o f the United States and probably within a fairly specific demographic; however, a close analysis reveals he eludes localization. I would suggest that both o f these contradictions—Whitman as the poet o f disembodiment, and Whitman dislocated from his native America—gesture toward the underlying significance o f spiritual themes in his poetry. Whitman does not celebrate the body, but transforms it into a divine and thus suitable vehicle for the activity o f the soul. He does not specifically situate himself among the nineteenth-century American people or within the national landscape, but rather merges with an eternal cosmic life cycle to illustrate that worldly appearances give way to enduring spiritual reality. The quest to understand this spiritual reality is fundamental to active citizenship in a democracy. Moreover, the poetic act o f carrying a spiritual message to a material, earthly world is fundamentally connected to disembodiment and dislocation, as the poet must situate himself between these two realms to bridge this gap.  1.2  CULTURAL CONTEXT  Born i n 1819, Walt Whitman lived for just under three-quarters o f a turbulent century i n a nation experiencing every dimension o f growth. The United States spent the nineteenth century expanding its territory to the south and west, pushing the frontier right  Chapter I across the continent. Meanwhile, immigrants from around the world flooded into the eastern port cities, especially N e w Y o r k . Born in the farming country o f Long Island and raised there and i n Brooklyn, Whitman witnessed at first-hand the growth o f his nation. H i s father worked for some time as a carpenter—a reasonably reliable profession i n this era o f overwhelming population expansion. The Whitman family's move from L o n g Island to Brooklyn was also a symptom o f growing industrialization, and was typical o f the migration o f families from the countryside into the city where secure work was plentiful and did not rely on the seasons. However, his childhood i n the countryside left an indelible mark on Whitman's imagination, evident in the imagery o f Leaves of  Grass.  Country life, the seashore, and grassy fields all emerge as embodiments o f an ideal life i n touch with the natural world. Whitman was educated in Sunday school and in the new public school system, and by age 11, he was working as an office boy for a law firm. The following year, he began working as a newspaper apprentice and was set on a path toward journalism. W h e n his family returned to Long Island in 1833, a fourteen-year-old Whitman remained to work in Brooklyn. A s a budding journalist, Whitman was exposed to all o f the art N e w Y o r k had to offer as a growing cultural centre. Whitman adopted the prevalent notion o f the time that the United States had no art or literature o f its own, and needed to stop importing European (especially British) works in favour o f developing American arts (Kaplan 100). A s a typesetter, Whitman witnessed the inadequacy o f copyright laws, as works by Dickens and others were regularly reprinted in American newspapers with no royalties paid to their authors (Kaplan 98-9).  Chapter I In 1836, when fire destroyed the newspaper neighbourhood Whitman worked in, he returned to his family in L o n g Island and took up teaching in country schools. Although he claimed he hated the experience, it was clearly a formative one for his poetic ideology. He was genuinely interested in teaching. Rather than employing the stateapproved rote method, Whitman taught through Socratic questioning and tried to engage his students, without resorting to corporal punishment, which was then common in the classroom (Kaplan 81-3; Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America  63). Whitman's role in the  classroom, as a questioning guide along a path toward understanding, reappears in his poetry as an underlying theme. H e is "the teacher o f athletes / [...] H e most honors m y style who learns under it to destroy the teacher" ( S M 1234-6);  But each man and each woman o f you I lead upon a knoll, M y left hand hooking you round the waist, M y right hand pointing to landscapes o f continents and the public road.  Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you, Y o u must travel it for yourself. ( S M 1207-11)  U n t i l 1841, Whitman alternated between teaching i n schools and journalism, including running his own newspaper for a time. This stay on Long Island reinforced the memories and activities o f his youth—swimming, sailing, riding through the countryside, and generally enjoying the delights o f nature.  Chapter I Encouraged by his parents, as a child and young adult Whitman heard several religious leaders speak, including renowned Quaker preacher Elias Hicks. One o f the major appeals o f the American colonies was that, having been founded by Pilgrim and Puritan religious dissenters searching for a safe place to worship, they maintained a policy o f religious tolerance throughout their development, even after the Revolutionary War and the writing o f the Constitution. B y Whitman's time, dissent within established religious groups often led to the formation o f new sects:  The Shakers, the Mormons, the Oneidan perfectionists, Phoebe Palmer's perfectionist Methodists, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the spiritualists, and the Harmonialists all sprang up between the Revolution and the C i v i l War, with Christian Science and N e w Thought coming later. (Reynolds, Walt Whitman's  America  256)  This multiplicity o f sects all struggled to convert the masses, creating a wave o f evangelism known as the Second Great Awakening. Evangelical leaders organized great camp meetings where hundreds would be converted, with many claiming to have seen or heard Christ in visions. Religious fervour was pervasive in public life. Even without attending any meetings, Whitman witnessed, and to some extent participated in a multiplicity o f faiths. This certainly encouraged his openness toward all faiths as legitimate vehicles for personal spiritual development.  M y faith is the greatest o f faiths and the least o f faiths,  Chapter I Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern, Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years, Waiting responses from oracles, honoring the gods, saluting the sun, M a k i n g a fetich o f the first rock or stump, powowing with sticks i n the circle o f obis, Helping the llama or brahmin as he trims the lamps o f the idols, Dancing yet through the streets in a phallic procession, rapt and austere i n the woods a gymnosophist, Drinking mead from the skull-cap, to Shastas and Vedas admirant, minding the Koran, W a l k i n g the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife, beating the serpent-skin drum, Accepting the Gospels, accepting him that was crucified, knowing assuredly that he is divine. ( S M 1097-1106)  In 1841, Whitman returned to the city, working in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and embarking upon a rich period o f his development. H e lived in boarding-houses and worked at a variety o f newspapers, moving up from the pressroom to covering social, cultural and especially political events. H e even gave several speeches on behalf o f candidates i n local elections, and in support o f a variety o f local political concerns. O n several occasions he was fired from newspaper jobs because his political views did not please his editors. A t this time in N e w Y o r k , political questions were settled as often by  Chapter I street wars and riots than by debating and policy-making (Kaplan 103, 110; Reynolds, Walt Whitman's  America  103-6, 140). Meanwhile, Whitman also began writing and  publishing fiction, including a novel, Franklin  Evans;  or The Inebriate,  A Tale of the  Times, and i n 1842 saw Emerson speak, delivering his lecture, "The Poet," among others. Whitman later suggested this was a signpost directing h i m toward his eventual vocation. However, throughout the 1840s, Whitman was flaneur,  or loafer, a man o f fashion  wandering about the markets and harbours in a city known for its great contradictions: wealth and power alongside child prostitutes, pigs, and w i l d dogs i n the streets; the city had a new reservoir and modern waterworks, as well as overcrowded slums and frequent, devastating fires.  N e w Y o r k , as Whitman knew it then, was itself a "model," o f the nation reduced, o f personality and the mental life enlarged, and o f the sunshine places and dark patches, the lawless energies and contrarieties in each. In the city he explored democracy, and i n democracy he explored himself and the raw experience that went into Leaves of Grass. (Kaplan 113)  A nation so contradictory must come to a crisis point, and i n 1846, the beginnings o f this crisis began to form in the resolution o f the M e x i c o War, when the new states annexed as a result o f the U . S . military success were declared slavery-free. Effectively, this opened the debate that would last for the next fifteen years, before dissolving into civil war in 1861. Though not an abolitionist, Whitman was a Free Soiler—that is, he believed the existence o f slavery undermined the value o f free white labour, and thus  -10-  Chapter I opposed it. Nevertheless, in 1848, when Whitman was invited to N e w Orleans to open a daily newspaper on contract, the Crescent,  he made the journey south with his brother  Jeff. This was the first o f his travels in the United States, and the only trip he made prior to publishing the first edition o f Leaves of Grass  i n 1855. In N e w Orleans, Whitman  witnessed at first hand the southern way o f life; slavery and the slave trade, as well as theatres, gaming houses, and brothels. Although his stay was short, he and Jeff returning to N e w Y o r k later the same year, Whitman took with him new insight into the South. Between 1848 and the publication o f Leaves  of Grass  i n 1855, Whitman  undertook a rich program o f self-education and began making notes for his eventual poetry. It appears that Whitman took an interest i n a wide variety o f scientific and artistic subjects, sometimes for journalistic purposes—theatre and opera reviews for instance— and sometimes for personal reasons. W h i l e he continued to pursue political journalism, attending speeches, debates and anti-slavery rallies, he also became a major figure on the arts scene, reviewing theatrical and musical performances,  and many books. He  developed a passion for theatre and opera, as well as an appreciation for distinctly American art and artists. Moreover, for all that Leaves of Grass is praised as sourceless, or as following no model, Whitman clearly drew upon his readings o f this period, which included Rousseau, Longfellow, Bryant, Shakespeare, Pope, Horace, the Bible, M a r y Queen o f Scots, Columbus, Plato, Alcibiades, Ruskin, George Sand, Frances Wright, Coleridge, Carlyle, and Emerson, among many others (Kaplan 169-72; Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America  236). Throughout this period, Whitman also turned his interest from  primarily Protestant religion to the unconventional spiritualism and  pseudoscience  circulated across the nation by both serious scholars and the likes o f P.T. Barnum.  - 11 -  Chapter I Whitman took more than a passing interest in Egyptology, visiting the collections o f N e w Y o r k scholars regularly. Kaplan suggests this study o f great civilizations o f the past gave Whitman a sense o f the place o f nations in the grand scheme o f world history, but it certainly also exposed h i m to spiritual traditions other than the predominant JudeoChristian models o f his time. Whitman also began to study phrenology, the "science" o f reading bumps on the skull as indications o f the size and shape o f the brain, with corresponding character traits assigned to different portions o f the brain. Whitman had the bumps on his head read on July 16, 1849.  Altogether wrongheaded, as 'scientific' as Dante's cosmography and as chimerical as perpetual motion, phrenology nevertheless served Whitman well: it supplied h i m with a structure o f belief, the underpinnings o f a personal mythology. H e found a way o f reasoning from a limited present to the poet he was to become. It scarcely matters that he drew the right conclusions from the wrong data. (Kaplan 153)  Whitman also took an interest i n animal magnetism, a theory that everything in existence, alive and dead, was "all part o f a network o f sending and receiving stations relaying an invisible electric fluid" (Kaplan 150). Means o f transmission included physical contact, hypnosis, arcane passing and other physical and occult practices. The theory o f animal magnetism allowed for communication with the dead, and the observance o f occult phenomena—thus it supported many other unconventional spiritual movements:  -12-  Chapter I Mesmerism, which began as hypnotic mind-control and developed into a system o f healing, popularized the terminology o f animal magnetism that lay  behind  [Whitman's]  images  of  electricity  and  fluid  energy.  Spiritualism, which purported to prove immortality through contact with spirits, influenced his ideas about death and the soul. Swedenborgianism, in the antiecclesiastical form that made it popular among many Americans at mid-century, contributed to his notions o f spiritual essences and sensuous mysticism. Harmonialism, an umbrella term referring to a broad religious outlook expounded most famously by Andrew Jackson Davis, drew together these and other movements to posit an eternal interchange between mind and matter. (Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America  259)  These ideas and practices, incredible and credible alike, worked their way into Whitman's life and his poetry. "He bathed and swam daily, studied texts on water cure, diet, physique, exercise, longevity, personal magnetism, eugenics, sexology, heredity" (Kaplan 151); he wrote o f influx and efflux, the body's electricity, the magnetic soul, immortality, and the individual as cosmos. Whitman's interests were encouraged by his pursuits throughout this period, which balanced between journalism, a family construction business, and two attempts to make a career o f general knowledge. The first o f these, in 1849, saw Whitman open a storefront and prepare a series o f lectures that were never delivered. H e took to visiting family members in Long Island and writing narratives about country life there for city newspapers.  Whitman then took to construction, where his work was limited to  -13-  Chapter I overseeing finances, contractors and suppliers, while his father and brothers George and Andrew did the building. This allowed his family to live rent-free in the homes they built until they were sold. Whitman's second attempt at a career in general knowledge was supported by this practice, as he opened a store and job-printing office on the ground floor o f one o f his family's houses, living upstairs. Between 1849 and 1852, he sold phrenological items, stationery, toys and books—many o f which he read before they were sold. In 1853, the United States was formally recognized as a world power with the World's Fair, hosted at N e w York's Crystal Palace. The new iron and glass building displayed the latest in technology: steam and electric engines, bridge elements, printing presses, guns, gold bars, furniture, lenses, lifeboats, and a significant art collection. Whitman saw the building and its contents as evidence o f modern America (Kaplan 181). It is unclear exactly when Whitman decided that he would write a book o f poetry, and unclear when he began making notes. H e presents his vocation as the result o f a moment o f sexual/spiritual poetic inspiration:  I mind how once we [the speaker and his soul] lay such a transparent summer morning, How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, A n d parted the shirt from m y bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to m y bare-stript heart, A n d reach'd till you felt m y beard, and reach'd till you held my feet.  - 14-  Chapter I Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument o f the earth, A n d I know that the hand o f God is the promise o f my own, A n d I know that the spirit o f God is the brother o f m y own, A n d that all the men ever born are also m y brothers, and the women m y sisters and lovers, A n d that a kelson o f the creation is love. ( S M 87-95)  One biographer, Justin Kaplan, suggests Whitman did experience a poetic vision that took over and inspired the poet, from which he later awoke in wonder, and which periodically recurred as "flashes o f illumination or ecstasy" triggered by "the sea, music, the grass, the green world o f summer" (Kaplan 190). Nevertheless, Kaplan notes the sustained preparation that went into the making o f Leaves of Grass. Some o f Whitman's notes for the poems may be from as early as 1847. It is clear from his notes, scribbled in daybooks alongside bills, names and addresses, that his poetry was not simply inspired, but theorized in advance. H i s intention was to present something not seen before:  "Make no quotations and no references  to other writers," Whitman  instructed himself when he was composing Leaves  of Grass.  "Take no  illustrations whatsoever from the ancients or classics ... nor from the royal and aristocratic institutions and forms o f Europe. Make no mention or allusion to them whatever, except as they relate to the new, present  -15-  Chapter I things—to our country—to American character or interests." (qtd. in Kaplan 169)  1  Kaplan notes a contrast between Whitman's epic o f happiness and the ancients who frequently focused on war, pain and suffering. Nevertheless, many scholars have identified the roots o f Leaves of Grass in the structure o f epic, elegy and lyric poetry, as well as in the rhythms o f preaching and Biblical verse. The title Leaves of Grass  was  registered M a y 15, 1855, and the first print run o f 795 copies (200 i n green cloth binding, 595 in cheaper binding) was available July 4, 1855, Independence Day. The original text included Whitman's picture, but his name only appeared in the copyright notice, which was often registered to representatives o f authors. The only connection between the picture, copyright, and poetry was in the then untitled "Song o f Myself," when the speaker's soul talks to "Walt." Unfortunately, following frequent periods o f illness, Whitman's father died only days after Leaves of Grass appeared in print. B y the time Leaves of Grass had been published, Whitman saw himself as a poet. Although the book had sold only a few copies, and although he had to work full-time as a journalist to support himself, Whitman identified with the artistic and bohemian communities o f N e w Y o r k , looking there for recognition and acceptance. Whitman made himself a regular at Pfaff s Restaurant, a favourite haunt o f the artists, abolitionists and feminists o f the bohemian community. A t Pfaff s and in his daily journalism, Whitman became even more a student o f the common person. Leaves  of Grass  remained  Whitman's main project, as he revised his poems and added more, releasing a second  1  Kaplan quotes Whitman from: Notes and Fragments. Richard Maurice Bucke, ed. London, ON, 1899. 56.  -16-  Chapter I edition in 1856, complete with reviews (most by himself), and a third edition in 1860. The 1860 edition, however, marked a completion o f the intent o f the book. W i t h the addition o f "Starting from Paumanok" at the beginning and "So Long!" at the end o f the work, Whitman established the life-cycle metaphor he had been working toward. Moreover, this edition cut out the preface from 1855 and the letters and reviews from 1856, leaving the poetry to stand alone and speak for itself. This was the last full edition o f Leaves of Grass printed before the C i v i l War erupted, forcing America to reconsider itself as a nation and its place in the world. In the period leading up to the war, many social problems grew increasingly aggravated. In the first half o f the nineteenth century:  Politically and socially, America was in some ways close to chaos. The old party system shattered, and a new one struggled to establish itself on the basis o f a confusing array o f splinter groups. Corruption i n high places was rampant. Although a broad middle class was developing, the gap between the rich and the poor was wider than ever before. Immigrants arrived i n unprecedented numbers, changing the nation's ethnic makeup and fanning antiforeign sentiment. Urban death rates soared. America's largest city, N e w Y o r k , could boast o f its economic and cultural centrality, but it was also crowded, filthy and infested by rowdy gangs and roving prostitutes—not  to mention the  (Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America  ever-present 306)  - 17-  swine on the  streets.  Chapter I Throughout the nineteenth century, the democracy o f the United States was confronted with multiplying social, ethnic, cultural and economic stratifications; the C i v i l War represents the crisis point o f the nation's effort to feel out the limits o f its democratic system, despite this increasing complexity. The rebellion in the American south began A p r i l 12, 1861, and b y July 21, the C i v i l War had officially begun. Whitman was an ardent U n i o n supporter, though too old to enlist. However, his brother George signed up for military service and travelled to Washington. In September 1861, the Whitman family learned that George had been injured, and Walt raced to Washington looking for him. Although George had received only a cut to the cheek, after ascertaining his brother's good health, Whitman decided to stay in Washington for a few weeks—his visit lasted several years. During the war, Whitman volunteered as a Soldier's Missionary in the army hospitals. H e visited injured and dying soldiers from both sides o f the battle lines, bringing them candy, oranges, and jokes, writing letters home for them, sometimes advising their parents o f their deaths.. While his fellow delegates from the Christian Commission handed out religious tracts, Whitman gave comfort, and was well-loved for it (Kaplan 276-81). H e met a great number o f young soldiers, and developed intimate bonds with some o f them; indeed, it is to this period that most scholars look for evidence of Whitman's early homosexual attachments. Whether brotherly or romantic, the love Whitman gave to these soldiers was often returned with devotion while they remained in hospital; however, many died, others returned home, began families, and eventually stopped writing to their affectionate nurse. For Whitman, deep feelings o f love became intrinsically connected to death and loss, a connection articulated repeatedly throughout  -18-  Chapter I Leaves of Gr,ass (Kaplan 282-7). Certainly, the hospitals were not a pleasant place for relationships: led by Surgeons General trained in the War o f 1812 and poorly trained doctors and nurses, medical care was antiquated; open latrines, dirty surgical tools and little to no hand-washing contributed to infections and a resulting surge o f amputations— Whitman describes in a notebook the piles o f limbs outside the hospital tents, bloody, grey and rotting. Whitman wrote throughout the war, completing his collection o f war poetry, Drum  Taps, i n 1863 (it was published only in 1865, and stopped in mid-printing to add  some new poems, including "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd"), and supporting himself through journalism and work as a copyist. After a bout o f illness, hospital fatigue, and an eight-month trip home to N e w York, Whitman returned to Washington and secured a government clerkship i n 1865 in the Office o f Indian Affairs of the Interior Department, shortly before the war ended. In this position Whitman actually met some o f the Indian delegates, to whom he would routinely introduce himself as the poet-chief and share his vision o f common humanity (Kaplan 298). In hindsight, Whitman argued that Leaves of Grass could only have become what it was by the end o f his lifetime because o f the C i v i l War. H e saw the C i v i l W a r as the proof o f America, the crisis through which the nation fought for its ideals o f freedom and equality, for the value o f the labour o f the common working man. It was certainly also a manifestation o f the social struggle to mediate relations between white Americans, Natives, Blacks and the thousands o f immigrants i n the United States. Whitman remained in Washington until 1873. B y this time he was a popular figure, caricatured in newspapers, sometimes asked to read at convocations. However, i n  - 19-  Chapter I January  1873, Whitman had the first o f several paralytic strokes. H i s friends in  Washington nursed him back to health and mobility, just in time for him to travel to his brother George's home in Camden, N J , to be with his mother in the final days o f her life. O f his family members, she had been the closest to h i m , and he was devastated by her loss. He lived in Camden for the rest o f his life, suffering a second stroke in 1875. Despite his increasingly limited mobility, Whitman enjoyed the American centennial celebrations i n Philadelphia throughout  1876, and to mark the occasion, released a  centennial edition o f Leaves of Grass, complete with new poetry. It had very successful sales, thanks to a bit o f promotional genius and an intercontinental literary war o f his own design. He sent clippings o f an anonymous article, written by himself, denouncing the reception his poems had had since 1855, and cataloguing all the injuries o f the nation against their author. He announced Whitman to be poor, and then added a few promotional lines for his centennial edition. He sent clippings to all his friends on both sides o f the Atlantic, and when the American press discovered his English fans planned to form a committee to recruit subscribers for the volume, the battle lines were drawn. The result o f many heated articles sent back and forth across the Atlantic was that Whitman's poetry was finally discussed on its own merits, rather than in connection with what Whitman was wearing in his photographs or whom he had offended. Whitman finally travelled across his beloved America to Colorado i n 1879, and declared it better than he had imagined. He also delivered the first o f his annual Lincoln lectures that year in N e w York. The following year saw h i m travelling to Canada to visit his friend Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, and to tour the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River regions. In 1881, he made a trip to Boston to oversee the printing o f the 1881-82  -20-  Chapter I Leaves of Grass. In the final decade o f his life, Whitman continued to write, working on Specimen  Days,  a prose book o f reflections on his life and his century. H e eventually  moved to his own house on M i c k l e Street in Camden, where he remained until his death, March 26, 1892.  1.3 C R I T I C A L C O N T E X T  The first known review o f Leaves of Grass appeared in the N e w Y o r k Tribune on July 23, 1855, just over two weeks after the volume's first release. Since then, Leaves of Grass has enjoyed abundant praise, derogation and scholarly criticism. It is impossible to catalogue all threads o f the arguments surrounding Whitman. Thanks to his diverse and interconnected themes, his poetry necessarily lends itself to some dominant topics o f discussion, but scholars have approached these topics, and others, from a huge variety o f critical perspectives. Whitman scholarship began in the 1860s, with the first o f several hagiographic biographical studies written during the poet's lifetime by his supporters. To these he gave not only his endorsement, but also his assistance. T w o aspects o f biographical studies continue to dominate Whitman studies today. O n one hand, scholars consider Whitman's relation to his social and historical context. These cultural studies, like David S. Reynolds's Walt Whitman's  America:  A Cultural  Biography  (1995), approach many o f the  themes taken up in Whitman's poetry, considering the influence o f his life and times on his views and writings on democracy, race, religion, love, death, individuality, gender, and sexuality, among others. This has also evolved into a number o f thematic studies on each o f these topics. For instance, Betsy Erkkila considers Whitman as a political poet  -21  -  Chapter I from a variety o f vantage points, illustrating the necessity o f homoeroticism in Whitman's politics, considering shifts in his political views before and after the C i v i l War, and portraying Whitman as a challenger o f the cultural norms o f his era. Meanwhile, in several articles M . W y n n Thomas and A l a n Trachtenberg have each examined the connections between Whitman's belief in the value o f the working person and his Free Soil and antislavery attitudes, as well as the manifestations o f themes o f labour politics in his poetry. Trachtenberg has also considered Whitman's relation to cities and crowds in his poetry, a theme Walter Griinzweig develops further i n his work on Whitman as an advocate o f normalism, which Griinzweig defines as a manifestation o f the w i l l o f the majority. Other critics, like Robert K . Martin and Mark Doty, consider Whitman as a champion o f a gay lifestyle, or alternatively as an unwittingly gay proponent o f a nation united in brotherhood. Mark Maslan also examines Whitman's sexuality as a stimulus for poetic inspiration, insisting this is a form o f possession, resulting i n the subversion o f the individual self. The other aspect o f biographical studies includes texts like Justin Kaplan's Walt Whitman:  A Life  (1980), which tend to feature a twin focus on the development o f  Whitman the man and on the evolution o f Leaves of Grass, his book. Frequently, these biographies offer interpretations o f Whitman's writing through the lens o f significant events and experiences i n his life. Early considerations o f the connections between Whitman's life and writings opened the door for more textually oriented criticism, including formalist, structuralist, poststructuralist, anthropological and linguistic studies. M a n y o f these approaches emerge i n the thematic studies mentioned above. Finally, recent examinations o f Whitman's reception and influence, like E d Folsom's Whitman  -22-  Chapter I East & West: New Contexts for Reading Walt Whitman (2002) and Kenneth M. Price's To  Walt Whitman, America (2004), continue to accumulate, illustrating Whitman's position as a major author in world literature. Because of the prominence of the biographical origins of much Whitman criticism, a great deal of this body of scholarship works to connect Whitman to his time and culture, often situating Whitman and/or his speaker with respect to particular events, places and bodies. However, a recent turn in criticism takes a similar approach to my own, in that it examines the ways in which Whitman disconnects his voice from the nineteenth-century United States he claims to speak for. For instance, Folsom points out that Whitman draws a distinction between America and the United States, treating America as an idea not connected by any necessary ties to the territory of the United States—the poet of America, therefore, is not necessarily the poet of the United States as a political system and territory ("What a Filthy Presidentiad!" 108-11). Also, as Marianne Noble suggests, contrary to a popular understanding of Whitman's intimate poetic interaction with other bodies, his speaker has no "genuine human contact" and thus remains distanced from the bodies and intimate relations he so scandalously—for 1855— describes. While these scholars use traditional methods of literary analysis, I will analyse Whitman's stylistics, applying some tools of linguistic pragmatics, which will allow me to explore the characteristics, whether embodied or not, of Whitman's voice. Therefore, three aspects of Whitman scholarship are most significant for this study: stylistic examinations of Leaves of Grass, anthropological investigations of religious themes in Whitman's poetry, and to a lesser extent, deconstructive analyses of Whitman's writings.  -23-  Chapter I Considering Whitman's influence in changing the look and sound o f American poetry, there are still remarkably few extensive studies o f Whitman's style. Three works stand out as particularly relevant to this study because o f their concern with Whitman's use o f language. C . Carroll Hollis considers oratorical characteristics i n Whitman's poetry in his book, Language  and Style in "Leaves of Grass"  (1983). H e traces the oratorical  origins o f Leaves of Grass to the style o f lectures Whitman wrote notes for, beginning in 1848, but never completed or delivered. Hollis's examination o f oratory, speech-act theory, negation and metonymy in relation to Leaves  of Grass  focuses on the early  editions o f the text, which are developmentally closest to the undelivered lectures. H o l l i s aims to identify and characterize these elements o f Whitman's style, and does not offer any intensive interpretation o f the reasons Whitman employs them. This is typical, as stylistic analyses tend to be very focused in scope, as they elaborate only a few aspects o f a text, often making a demonstration o f the text's characteristics rather than offering an interpretation o f the text's meaning. James Perrin Warren, on the other hand, tries not to distinguish between theory and practice, seeing them as opposing ends o f a continuum. H e reads Leaves of Grass as an attempt to put a nineteenth-century person on record, as Whitman once suggested i n a conversation with his long-time friend Horace Traubel. Warren insists that we cannot understand the text as exclusively an aesthetically-oriented literary performance, nor can we discount Whitman's extensive use o f figurative language i n placing a person on record. Warren's book,  Walt  Whitman's  Language  Experiment  (1990), traces the  development o f Whitman's theory o f language through six editions o f Leaves of  Grass,  illustrating that the distinction between person and literature is not absolute. H e  -24-  Chapter I characterizes his discussion as a deconstructive reading, though not one that argues for a decentred poetic self, and contextualizes it within the framework o f Whitman's interest i n linguistics. Meanwhile, Tenney Nathanson does argue for a decentred poetic self. H e offers a deconstructive reading o f the performative language Whitman employs, examining the power o f the poet's voice to both create the presence o f the poet, and to deliberately draw attention to its own means o f production, thus underlining the poet's actual absence and elusiveness. In Whitman's Presence:  Body, Voice, and Writing in Leaves of Grass (1992),  he argues the poet takes a stance at the centre o f the universe his poems create, diffusing himself until the centre is everywhere. Moreover, Nathanson insists that Whitman, uncomfortable with the impossibility o f transfiguring himself fully into his  Leaves,  attempts to disavow the existence o f the book, insisting it is the embodiment o f a man. Nathanson considers elements o f Whitman's language and style involved i n producing, sustaining, or countering power relations connected to the poet's construction o f his identity. These include Whitman's naming i n catalogues and lists, his cosmic mythmaking, presence and autonomy in relation to contemporaneous social forms, the relation he portrays between body and voice, and his contrasting attempts to reveal an agglomerative identity and a private individuality. Ultimately, Nathanson argues that Whitman is not working toward a political message i n Leaves of Grass, but toward his own exceptional status at the centre o f the text. However, Nathanson sometimes attributes a lack o f awareness to Walt Whitman, suggesting that in his poetry an economy o f voice and writing, o f presence and absence, emerges to generate the illusion o f the productive power o f the text. He argues Whitman inadvertently also reveals the linguistic defects  -25-  Chapter I that m a k e it clear this p o w e r is i l l u s o r y ; the k e y defect b e i n g the gap between sign and referent. Y e t o n several occasions W h i t m a n v e r y deliberately calls attention to this gap, often r e f u s i n g to n a m e those objects or ideas w h o s e p o w e r exceeds the constraints o f an arbitrary s i g n , illustrating not o n l y a conscious awareness o f this linguistic gap, but also the w i l l i n g n e s s to use it to his advantage. N o t h i n g is inadvertent. T h e s e stylistic analyses a i m to identify characteristics o f the speaker's v o i c e , but o n l y s o m e attempt to attribute m o t i v a t i o n to their findings. W h i l e I a m not i m m e d i a t e l y c o n c e r n e d w i t h his poetry's motivations  or origins, I a m interested  i n the effect  of  W h i t m a n ' s stylistic choices o n a reader interpreting the text. 1 believe the d i s e m b o d i m e n t and d i s l o c a t i o n o f his speaker to be fundamentally connected to the spiritual r e a l m , i n W h i t m a n ' s c o s m o s ; hence, it is necessary to also c o n s i d e r investigations o f his spiritual themes.  Many  o f these seek to  identify W h i t m a n ' s connections  to w o r l d  religions,  i n c l u d i n g the dominant C h r i s t i a n factions o f nineteenth-century A m e r i c a . O n e s u c h w o r k is  The Ecstatic  Whitman: Literary  Shamanism & the Crisis of the Union  (1986) b y  G e o r g e H u t c h i n s o n , w h i c h integrates the significant interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives o n W h i t m a n ' s w r i t i n g o f the thirty p r e v i o u s years b y c o n s i d e r i n g the poet as shaman.  F o r Hutchinson, shamanism  performance  of  Whitman's  prophetic  provides poetry,  an and  excellent  model  reconciles  the  for the poet's  ecstatic religious  orientation, v i s i o n a r y i d e a l i s m , and p s y c h o l o g y w i t h the b u i l d i n g cultural crisis o f the early and mid-nineteenth  century. H e outlines  the  characteristics  o f shamanism  and  illustrates their emergence i n W h i t m a n ' s early fiction and throughout his poetry, and he describes the r e v i t a l i z i n g r o l e the poet-shaman a i m e d to p l a y i n r e i n f o r c i n g or reorienting the s y m b o l i c systems o f his culture i n its time o f crisis.  -26-  Chapter I Meanwhile, in Minor  Prophecy:  Walt Whitman's  New American  Religion  David Kuebrich examines the spiritual message underlying Leaves of Grass,  (1989),  understood  as a single unified work, not a collection o f distinct poems. Kuebrich contextualizes this within an understanding o f the era, its spiritual and political beliefs, and its millennial anticipations. Whitman is considered as a self-proclaimed prophet on a mission to invent a new religion for a young nation. However, Kuebrich calls him a minor prophet because his prophecy does not play out as he expected. America does not become united by his new, natural civic religion, by bonds o f brotherly affection; nevertheless, his work continues to have an inspirational influence on many readers. Whether as shaman or prophet, Whitman clearly employs structures o f thought and representation aligned with familiar spiritual forms. I would suggest that a study o f Whitman's spiritual themes using a linguistic approach to style could shed a great deal o f a new light on both Whitman's practices as a poet and on his development o f a coherent, unified theology and world view. Although Whitman uses the term "religion" in his poetry, I hesitate to use it in this study. The sense Whitman gives it i n his poetry seems far broader than the doctrinal and sectarian connotations most often associated with organized religion. Moreover, his theory o f democracy, which he extends to all aspects o f life, precludes the hierarchies o f organized religions. For this reason as well, I hesitate to call Whitman's speaker a priest, preacher, prophet or even shaman. A s I w i l l argue, Whitman understood the mysteries o f the spiritual realm to be accessible to all individuals. Finally, because two o f the three stylistic studies taken into account here are aligned with a deconstructive approach, it is helpful to consider deconstruction as a critical standpoint as well. One o f the most interesting texts using this critical approach is  -27-  Chapter I Disseminating  Whitman:  Revision  and  Corporeality  in Leaves  of  Grass  Michael M o o n . He deconstructs the first four editions o f Leaves of Grass,  (1991)  by  charting the  revisions to the book as a whole on what he calls the "macro" level. M o o n is particularly interested in Whitman's modes o f representing embodiment, and the ways in which he attempts to eliminate the distinction between sexual transgression and the act o f writing. He  suggests Whitman deliberately calls attention to the constructedness o f bodily  experience, thus revealing the political nature o f embodiment. Whitman's revisions, therefore, relate to a need to re-present the (male) body i n light o f its changing political role(s) before,  during, and after  the  Civil  War. L i k e Nathanson, M o o n  sees a  contradiction in the text: Whitman asserts repeatedly that he provides loving physical presence through his book but is aware o f the frustrating, incontrovertible conditions o f writing and embodiment that render it impossible to do more than provide metonymic substitutions. However, again I am not convinced Whitman was frustrated by this. Rather, I would suggest his stylistics reveal he does not want to be embodied and avoids being tied to the material world. M o o n suggests the loving presence works to demonstrate politics o f embodiment, but I think it also leads us to the spiritual message inherent in the work. Together, these three approaches point toward a coherent, unified understanding o f Whitman's overarching goal—to guide his readers toward a more enlightened, democratic understanding o f the cosmos.  1.4 M E T H O D O L O G Y  I believe that for Whitman, poetry is a fundamentally spiritual act. A s Hutchinson suggests o f shamanism and the ecstatic moment o f prophetic inspiration, I would extend  -28-  Chapter I to the poetic act the role o f bridging the gap between the material and spiritual worlds, o f carrying messages from one to the other. Because this is his task, Whitman must situate his speaker between these worlds—he can afford no distinguishable ties to the material world o f nineteenth-century America, nor can he be so abstract that he gives us no clue as to his identity, location, or era. A disembodied speaker is fundamental to this project; he remains identifiable, but not situated. The messages he carries from the spiritual realm— his understanding o f the cosmos, and o f the role o f the individual human within it—rely on his ability to stay i n this in-between or placeless state, and to convey the abstract understanding to which he is privileged i n a way ordinary readers can understand. Thus, in this study, I w i l l consider the speaker's activities o f self-location and o f what Whitman calls "translation." The poems analysed in each o f the following three chapters have been selected for the relationships they portray. A l l o f these chapters consider the agency and activities o f the speaker in these relationships. Chapter II considers the speaker as individual and considers his portrayal o f himself i n space and time. Chapter III examines  the  interpersonal relationships between the speaker and the individuals around h i m , whom he represents in his poetry. Finally, Chapter I V looks at social relationships; that is, the relationships between the individual speaker and his city, nation, and cosmos. Because Whitman's poetry is exclusively centred on the first-person voice o f the speaker, the examination  o f social  relationships  cannot  include the  interaction  of  different  demographics with each other; these exchanges are only reflected through the speaker's individual point o f view. In each o f these chapters, I w i l l examine the effects o f the speaker's "translations" i n the poems at hand. This work o f translation is often a process  -29-  Chapter I of metaphoric and metonymic redefinition, which can be understood through an analysis of the patterns o f linguistic cohesion Whitman creates; in the simplest terms, the manner in which Whitman uses specific word associations to add meaning(s) to the definition o f a word or concept. In this way, Whitman can be understood as a teacher, building upon an individual reader's understanding o f a word or concept until it represents far more each time it appears than it has in previous uses in his text. The speaker's location also becomes important i n this context, for the character o f his discourse is necessarily shaped in part by the position from which the speaker addresses his audience. I w i l l examine how each o f the poems considered illustrates the speaker's indications o f self-location, both through  linguistic  disembodiment  and  through  imagery  of  border  zones  and  placelessness. Finally, in each o f the next three chapters I w i l l demonstrate how these elements o f Whitman's style are employed specifically to promote his spiritual goals: to situate himself i n the liminal space between the spiritual and material realms; to translate the material world into cosmic order; and to lead readers to an understanding o f the divinity o f nature and o f the individual human being. Lastly, Chapter V gestures toward some o f the implications o f this underlying coherence i n Whitman's language and poetry, in terms o f both personal and political themes. To analyse Whitman's style and its relation to spiritual themes i n his poetry, this study employs some tools o f linguistic pragmatics. It is important to understand the difference between the study o f style and o f linguistics, and how they relate to each other. Linguistic pragmatics and the study o f stylistics both proceed from the understanding that language is a system o f meaning-making and meaning-communication. Both understand that this system employs arbitrary signs to produce meaning. Stylistics examines the  -30-  Chapter I characteristics o f a body o f written, verbal, or signed language and the effect the language producer aims to communicate to the language receiver. Stylistic analysis identifies patterns o f usage and attempts to arrive at principles to explain the particular choices made by language producers, often with regard to the meaning produced by their text. The style o f any one work may be typical o f a particular genre, o f a particular author, or of a particular period or movement in literary history. It may be a product o f cultural beliefs, specific literary influences, or an underlying motivation on the part o f an author; it can be a combination o f any or many o f these influences. A stylistic analysis o f a text can include wide-ranging observations about language that extend from the organization and structure o f the text as a whole to the mode, tense, punctuation, rhyme, metre o f individual sentences or lines, as well as observations about literary devices like metaphor or alliteration, among others. On the other hand, linguistic pragmatics looks specifically at the use o f language; it considers how words are variously considered, selected, contextualized, ordered, communicated, and understood—in short, how the use o f language creates context and makes meaning. The words i n a discourse create context through their relation to each other, in relation to the implied or stated position, presuppositions, and prior knowledge of the language producer (speaker/writer) and o f the language receiver (audience), and i n relation to the ties that bind each utterance or sentence to others within a larger discourse. A s such, linguistic pragmatics offers tools that can be used in stylistic analysis, for the investigation o f patterns o f usage all along the continuum between the grammatical (language structure) and lexical (content) ends o f the language spectrum.  -31 -  Chapter I Thus, when analysed linguistically or stylistically, a text reveals new insights about its structure, content, theme, narrator, worldview, and audience, among others— about how the text operates to produce meaning—but also about the structure and functions o f the language system employed to produce meaningful discourse. M y aim is to reveal new insights about the meaning o f the text, not the system itself. Using these tools, it becomes possible to trace the subjectivity o f the speaker in terms o f how he situates and represents himself—the context he creates through his language use—as well as how he relates to the real and conceptual worlds around him. I w i l l illustrate how at the level o f language, Whitman refuses to align his speaker with any specific place or body for any enduring length o f time. Rather, in linguistically situating himself between places, bodies and moments, he mirrors imagery o f the ecstatic prophetic moment o f his poetspeaker, thereby infusing his writing with spiritual structures at all levels o f composition. Stylistic and linguistic analytical tools are available for use i n any corpus o f writing. The structure o f our language and the sometimes unconscious reasons we employ any one word or structure over another are manifested in all bodies o f writing. However, in considering Whitman's work, the use o f these tools is particularly justified, for there is a higher than average likelihood that many o f the choices Whitman made i n writing are not only conscious decisions, but carefully considered. A s evidence, I offer a series o f interconnected biographical facts: between 1857 and 1859 Whitman studied historical linguistics with W i l l i a m Swinton. It is a commonly held belief among Whitman scholars that although his work went unacknowledged, Whitman collaborated in the writing o f Swinton's linguistic treatise, Rambles  Among  Words,  published in 1859.  Moreover, Whitman prepared notes for a public lecture on language, which was  -32-  Chapter I eventually apparently set aside because it was a distraction from his main poetic purpose. However, I would argue that this interest in language is manifested, indeed practiced, in Leaves of Grass. Anyone who has so much as glanced at a manuscript copy o f Whitman's notes for his poetry can attest to the extensive revisions to which he subjected his text. Often we find h i m changing phrasing, adding or subtracting lines; just as often, we find him changing "and" to "or," or vice-versa, or eliminating these conjunctions entirely, adding or eliminating definite and indefinite articles, and making the small changes that change not the meaning o f the words around them, but o f how they communicate together. Although m y analysis w i l l not consider the revisions to his text over the decades in which it was published and republished, I w i l l focus on some o f the very small words that have a significant influence on the speaker's representation o f himself and his interactions with his world. In this study, I w i l l engage with Wallace Chafe's theory o f the flow and displacement o f consciousness in writing, as described i n his book Consciousness,  Discourse,  and Time (1994), and with M . A . K . Halliday's theory o f cohesion in  discourse, as outlined i n his text, Introduction  to Functional  Grammar  (2004). These  theoretical approaches shed light on how a narrative consciousness uses language to represent itself to others, and to define and interact with its audience, and on how each sentence connects with the others i n a discourse to make meaning. Moreover, these approaches unite the consciousness o f the speaker and the ways i n which that speaker can remain de-situated, yet still be understood, and convey tones o f intimacy, sincerity, confidence, or even alienation to his audience.  -33-  Chapter I In Discourse,  Consciousness,  and Time, Wallace Chafe notes that human beings  are conscious o f their own conscious experience. This makes it possible to characterize the conscious experience as either extroverted or introverted. One way to understand these characterizations is to consider the extroverted consciousness as active in a person endowed with physical senses interacting with an environment or experiencing an event, while the introverted consciousness is active in a mind remembering or imagining the experiences had b y the extroverted self. Either or both o f these aspects o f consciousness can be involved i n the production o f language. "Consciousness enters into the production o f language in two ways: it provides the ideas that are represented, but it is also responsible for representing them. O n that basis, we can speak o f a consciousness and a representing  represented  consciousness" (Chafe 198). Conscious experience,  whether extroverted or introverted, can be linked in a variety o f ways to the represented and representing consciousnesses o f language production. The interaction o f the two aspects o f conscious experience, and their awareness o f being involved in a process o f representation, can thus produce a variety o f kinds o f discourse—each o f which allows a listener or reader to situate a speaker i n relation to his audience and to the events and thoughts he represents. Chafe asks his readers to think about the ways i n which a speaker's dual consciousness can use language to represent itself to others. H e diagrams several modes o f representation in language relevant to this study, and illustrates how they emerge from conscious experience. In conversation, we most often find the immediate and displaced modes, which I w i l l briefly outline to provide context for three other modes that are more closely related to Whitman's writing in Leaves  -34-  of Grass.  In the immediate mode, an  Chapter I extroverted  conscious  experience—the  perception,  evaluation,  or  activity o f  an  environment—is immediately represented in language. A n example: an individual writing with a pen says to another searching for a pen in every pocket, "Here, I'm done with it." In speech, the immediate mode necessarily involves the presence o f both speaker and audience, known as copresence. It is in the present tense, with the representing (speaking) consciousness expressing the represented consciousness's ongoing experiences. In the sample phrase I have provided, the individual with the pen speaks, representing his represented self as being finished using his pen. In the immediate mode, the introverted consciousness is not significant for language production because it is not needed to remember past events or imagine future events. One could argue that while the extroverted consciousness perceives, interacts with, and evaluates the environment, the introverted consciousness in the immediate mode is active i n reflecting on these impressions and i n deciding what to vocalize as language, but there is no significant displacement  between  introverted  and extroverted  conscious experience  i n these  situations. Introverted conscious experience emerges in the displaced mode. This mode is concerned with relating events and experiences not occurring in the present environment around a speaker. A past or anticipated extroverted conscious experience is remembered or imagined b y an introverted awareness, which then represents this experience in language. For instance, an individual recounts the activities o f the previous evening: "I was in the garden last night and saw a racoon digging i n the rose beds;" or an individual describes a planned holiday: "We're travelling to the coast tomorrow and we're going to stay with m y aunt for a few days, because she thinks we're both worn out and need a rest  -35-  Chapter I before we go back to work." In both o f these examples, the extroverted consciousness is interacting with its environment i n a distinct time and place separate from the presentmoment,  speaking,  introverted  consciousness,  demonstrating  a  spatiotemporal  displacement. However, in the second example, the speaker also demonstrates a displacement o f self, an ability to be aware o f events and states originating i n someone else's consciousness. In both o f these examples the extroverted consciousness provides the locus for a point o f view; nevertheless, both the represented  and representing  consciousnesses remain attached to the introverted conscious experience. Here, ideas to communicate  emerge  through introverted reflection, and  are represented  by  the  introverted consciousness as well. Speakers readily shift between these two modes i n conversation, adding texture to the experiences they communicate, and providing insight into their thought processes and evolving ideas. Moreover, building on these two basic conversational modes, a language producer can shift to other modes i n both speaking and writing. Some o f these are particularly relevant for this discussion o f Whitman's poetry because he uses a written medium, and also because he adapts conversational modes for text i n unconventional ways. I shall outline three other modes Chafe discusses below: the historical present, displaced immediacy, and language without a represented consciousness. In simple terms, the historical present is the recounting o f past events as though they are happening in the present moment. It conveys a sense o f immediacy because when it is used i n conversation, the speaker is presenting a memory as though he is reliving it as he speaks. Thus, Chafe associates its use with climactic moments o f narrative. For instance, a speaker recounts to a co-worker an event that occurred a week  -36-  Chapter I earlier: "So I come into the kitchen and find the dog rooting through the trash, and it's all over the floor." A t the point o f the telling, the speaker is not at home, the trash has been cleaned, and the dog has most likely been chastised, and yet because o f the speaker's strong internal response to finding this mess, he or she chooses to represent it in the present tense. This kind o f manipulation o f spatiotemporal representation creates an interesting split consciousness. Because the anecdote is recounted in the present tense, there is a link between the representing consciousness and both the extroverted and introverted conscious experiences, unfolding in different times and places. Meanwhile, it is only the introverted consciousness that is represented, because what is actually being conveyed is only a memory. From this, it is clear to see how flexible consciousness can be. Evidently, not only are humans aware o f our conscious experience, but we can also project it into other locations and times, occasionally splitting it so that it is i n two places at once, or so that it goes missing altogether. Chafe explains that in all writing, different structures o f consciousness emerge because the self that is producing language is not present with the reader. He explains that this creates displacement o f self, and suggests that written fiction employs the mode o f displaced  immediacy particularly effectively.  Chafe notes  that i n the displaced  immediacy o f written first-person fiction:  The representing consciousness [...] is that o f the fictional narrator at the time o f narrating, but the represented consciousness is a different one. Although it belongs to the same self as the representing consciousness, it is separated i n space and time. The separation is possible because the  -37-  Chapter I desituatedness o f writing weakens, as it were, the hold o f the representing consciousness. In conversations the language emerging from the mouth o f the speaker expresses what is passing through the consciousness o f that person then and there. A situated representing consciousness maintains a tight grip on the represented consciousness. But when writing removes copresence and interaction, the hold is weakened and the represented consciousness is free to migrate to a different time and place. (Chafe 226-  Thus Chafe associates the represented consciousness with the extroverted experience o f interacting with the world, while the representing consciousness is associated only with the introverted experience o f remembering or imagining the events recounted, and articulating them in writing. While Chafe associates this introverted representing consciousness with a fictional narrator, consistent with the interpretation o f the speaker i n literary studies, he also notes that the representing consciousness reveals some indications o f the author's consideration for the reader as well. Chafe points out that in fiction, items, events, and people that would seem evident to the speaker, either because o f background knowledge or because they are copresent with the self o f the speaker, are often presented in a way that makes them more accessible to a reader unfamiliar with the speaker's environment. This is the invisible hand o f the author, rendering the fiction he or she creates a little more inviting for a reader who does not share this imaginary world. Finally, in written fiction, Chafe also identifies a mode o f language without a represented consciousness. He associates this mode specifically with an omnipresent  -38-  Chapter I and/or omniscient narrator. In these kinds o f narrative, the all-knowing narrator can be anywhere and everywhere at once—there  is no evident extroverted  represented  consciousness in contact with any one part o f its environment, and there is no evident introverted representing  consciousness because  it would  have none  o f its own  experiences to reflect upon and represent in language. Thus, Chafe describes this mode as having only an unacknowledged representing consciousness with direct access to all aspects o f the environment; thus this consciousness is able to convey all aspects o f introverted and extroverted experience in language. These modes o f consciousness can be identified through three grammatical indicators that reveal the relationship between the extroverted, introverted, represented and representing aspects o f consciousness. These three grammatical indicators are deixis, tense and person. Deictic adverbs o f space and time express the relation o f the extroverted conscious experience to the represented consciousness. Words like here, now, and today illustrate that the extroverted represented consciousness is proximal and united with the representing consciousness, while words like there and then reveal a distal relationship where the extroverted conscious experience is distinct from the represented consciousness.  Meanwhile,  tense  marks  a  relationship between  an  extroverted  consciousness and the representing consciousness. In the immediate mode they are united in present tense; in displaced mode, extroverted and representing consciousnesses operate in different timeframes, whether past or anticipated future. Finally, the person o f the speaker marks the direct or indirect relation o f the self o f the extroverted conscious experience with the self o f the representing consciousness. First-person narration indicates an equivalence o f these selves, second-person relates the self o f the extroverted  -39-  Chapter I consciousness to the listener or reader, and third-person indicates the self o f extroverted consciousness is neither the representing self nor the reader. In combination, these three indicators can be used to situate different aspects o f conscious experience and their manifestation i n language, according to the different modes o f representation Chafe identifies. A l s o important to this study o f Whitman's poetry is textual cohesion. In Introduction  to Functional  Grammar,  M . A . K . Halliday explains that "it is important to be  able to think o f text dynamically, as an ongoing process o f meaning" (524). He illustrates how, in producing text, a speaker or writer makes a series o f grammatical and lexical choices that help maintain the meaning o f a discourse as it flows along its intended course. Indeed, this system o f cohesion, as Halliday calls it, allows the meaning o f text to transcend the level o f the clause and extend to the discourse as a whole. A s a system, cohesion functions only within a text, through the connections between clauses and references o f words and ideas to each other throughout the discourse. Cohesion is not applicable to deictic terms that make reference to the situation surrounding the speaker and his audience, including the speaker and audience themselves—"The first and second persons I and you naturally retain this deictic sense; their meaning is defined i n the act o f speaking" (Halliday  551). Hence the  connection between  cohesion analysis and  consciousness: while cohesion can identify links o f continuity within a text, spoken or written, Chafe's analysis o f consciousness flows has yielded a means o f situating the speaker, even in written text. Halliday identifies four ways i n which these links o f continuity are forged i n a text: conjunction, reference, ellipsis, and lexical cohesion.  -40-  Chapter I As  a  cohesive  element,  conjunction  includes  both  familiar  c o n j u n c t i o n w o r d s (and, or, but, a m o n g others), a n d expressions  grammatical  o f continuity (well, oh,  a n d others). C o n j u n c t i o n s m a r k the r e l a t i o n s h i p s b e t w e e n clauses, a n d w o r d b y w o r d t h e y  can  be  d i v i d e d into  between  clauses.  many  different  F o r instance,  functions  i n the  in  previous  establishing  sentence,  the  i n t e r a c t i o n at  "and" serves  as  an  work  additive  m a r k e r , i n d i c a t i n g that a d d i t i o n a l i n f o r m a t i o n is b e i n g p r e s e n t e d to e x t e n d w h a t is m e a n t  b y the clause before.  Unlike  conjunction,  cohesion between  something  or  which  works  to  bind  clauses  together,  reference  creates  e l e m e n t s o f a d i s c o u r s e . A c h a i n o f r e f e r e n c e is c r e a t e d i n a text w h e n  someone  is  repeatedly  r e f e r r e d to,  and  this  chain  is  indicative  of  the  s p e a k e r ' s j u d g e m e n t o f t h e a u d i e n c e ' s a b i l i t y to i d e n t i f y the r e f e r e n t w i t h i n the f l o w o f t h e  d i s c o u r s e . T h r e e t y p e s o f r e f e r e n c e are c o m m o n : p e r s o n a l ( p r o p e r n a m e s , h i m , h e r , h e ,  she, etc.), d e m o n s t r a t i v e (this, that, t h o s e , t h e s e , it, etc.), a n d c o m p a r a t i v e ( s u c h ,  more,  fewer,  etc.). T o b e u n d e r s t o o d as c o h e s i v e ,  elements o f the  text, b u t t h e y  c a n gesture  these references  other,  m u s t refer to  other  forwards (cataphoric) t o w a r d references  to  They  follow, or b a c k w a r d (anaphoric), toward those w h i c h have already been mentioned.  c a n also gesture o u t s i d e o f the text ( e x o p h o r i c ) , to the e n v i r o n m e n t o f the d i s c o u r s e . F o r  instance,  I have  italicized one  o f the  m a n y reference  items  i n this  paragraph,  "they"  ( a b o v e ) , w h i c h refers b a c k to m e n t i o n s o f r e f e r e n c e s t h r o u g h o u t this c h a i n , w h i c h b e g i n s  o n the p r e v i o u s p a g e , b u t is p i c k e d u p a g a i n i n the first l i n e o f this p a r a g r a p h .  Referring  to  cohesive;  this k e y b o a r d i n front o f m e  h o w e v e r , all future references  would be  an exophoric reference,  t o "it," o r "the k e y b o a r d " b e c o m e  h a s n o w b e e n c o m m i t t e d to text.  -41-  a n d not  a n a p h o r i c , as t h i s  item  Chapter I Halliday argues that ellipsis and substitution are two manifestations o f the same idea: we can leave out parts o f a grammatical structure, or replace them with substitutes, when our interlocutors can presume them from the prior course o f discussion. The use o f ellipsis is an indication o f continuity in discourse. For instance, i f a co-worker asks me, " M a y I borrow a red pen?" I could respond, "No," or, "I don't have one." The first response is an example o f ellipsis, with the clause, "you can't borrow a red pen," left out. In the second response, "one" is a substitute for "a red pen." Conjunction, reference, and ellipsis are all cohesive elements on the grammatical level. Lexical cohesion operates on the level o f lexis alone—it is not influenced by grammar, but solely through the association o f words to each other. Lexical cohesion operates on multiple levels because words are related to each other i n a variety o f ways, and can create cohesive ties across large spans o f text. The most direct relations between lexical items are repetition and synonymy. A n example: "The audience clapped loudly. The clapping was thunderous." Here we see a repetition o f the activity o f clapping, in two different forms, and we see synonymy between loudly  and thunderous.  Halliday notes  that antonymy can function i n the same ways as synonymy to create cohesion. A t one remove from repetition and synonymy, we find hyponymy and meronymy. Halliday explains, "The general sense o f hyponymy is 'be a kind of, as i n 'fruit is a kind o f food'" (575), while meronyms are "a part of," as in "flowers garden"  and fountains  are co-meronyms o f  (576). Halliday points out that there is no clear line between hyponymy and  meronymy, and they operate most clearly with reference to a specified lexical item. "Forward,  half-back,  back are 'kinds' of players  but 'parts' o f a team. [...]  But since either  relationship is a source o f lexical cohesion it is not necessary to insist on deciding  -42-  Chapter I between them" (Halliday 576). Lastly, collocation is the tendency o f certain words to appear together more or less regularly. Halliday gives the examples o f snow and white, and cold and ice, but notes that snow and cold do not have as strong a collocational bond. However, within a given body o f text, collocational expectations on the part o f a reader may change because o f the nature o f the text, or through prior experience with specific collocational patterns established therein. So for instance, a reader may perceive a stronger collocational bond between sugar  and teaspoon,  tablespoon  or cup, when  reading a recipe book, rather than a more general collocational bond between sugar and sweet. Similarly, an author can establish collocational patterns i n poetry or fiction. Thus, in some ways an analysis o f lexical collocation can be understood as an examination o f how a writer teaches us to read their work. Because these four types o f cohesion—conjunction, reference, ellipsis, and lexical cohesion—operate using different lexicogrammatical units, they complement each other and work together to create cohesion throughout a discourse. That is not to say that they cannot be analysed separately. Indeed, in this study, I w i l l be most concerned with conjunctions and lexical cohesion, specifically with the ways Whitman uses collocation to establish certain metaphors as enduring symbols. Finally, I should mention that this study w i l l use the text o f the 1892 edition o f Leaves of Grass. M a n y scholars have argued against the 1892 edition, insisting that i n his later years Whitman's poetic powers were waning, while others suggest his extensive revisions do not work in favour o f the poetry by the time o f the last revision, but serve rather to hide his homosexual impulses. However, I am suggesting that we must take Whitman's interest in linguistics seriously and remember that his revisions gesture toward  -43-  Chapter I a profound consciousness o f the language he employs throughout Leaves of Grass.  If I  am correct in suggesting that his chief aim in Leaves of Grass throughout its history o f publication was and continued to be the transmission o f a spiritual message to its readers, and that Whitman's repeated revisions may have been undertaken with a theory o f language i n mind, the language o f the last revision (which is perhaps only the last because o f his inability to continue revising after death) should reflect the most refined form o f this message, and should approach stylistic and linguistic consistency throughout. While it is not the project o f m y thesis to determine the level o f consistency in his technique, I believe his language is consistent and does allow for a unified reading o f the text. Moreover, Whitman also encourages readers to prefer this text, as it was the last to be published under his direction during his lifetime, and he includes a  statement  favouring the last edition as the best and intending it to supersede all previous editions.  1.5 K E Y T H E S E S  I w i l l end this chapter by briefly reiterating some o f the key themes and theses to be discussed in the chapters to come. M y central argument is that the speaker remains disembodied throughout Leaves of Grass, positioning himself between the physical and spiritual realms to better interpret their interrelationship for his readers. Whitman's speaker seeks to illustrate his own divine nature as a model for his readers, in the anticipation that they too w i l l discover their divine selves. Chapter II w i l l illustrate how Whitman's speaker portrays himself as a divine being, i n contact with spiritual and physical realms, translating the physical into the spiritual and explaining the spiritual i n terms o f the physical. This speaker is necessarily  -44-  Chapter I de-situated and disembodied, as his self is neither completely in the physical realm, nor the spiritual. Chapter III shall examine the speaker's translation o f bodily interactions into spiritual exchanges, rendering everyday human activity divine. The poems considered i n this chapter have long been discussed as some o f the most striking portrayals o f heteroand homoeroticism, yet this analysis w i l l show how the speaker remains disembodied, largely precluding the possibility o f bodily interaction. Finally, this chapter also introduces the homoerotic symbol o f calamus grass and reinterprets it as a fundamentally spiritual icon for the poet. Chapter I V w i l l consider how the poet-speaker applies his spiritual understanding of the cosmos to his relationship with his society and nation. In this chapter, I w i l l discuss several manifestations o f the liminality o f the disembodied speaker in social and political contexts, illustrating that the spiritual aims o f Leaves  of Grass  are not limited to the  personal level, but extended to social, democratic life as a whole. Finally, Chapter V w i l l discuss some o f the implications o f this reading o f Whitman's project as fundamentally spiritual. I w i l l make some suggestions as to how spirituality and democracy interact as major themes i n Leaves of Grass,  and draw some  conclusions regarding the importance o f these themes in understanding the rhetoric o f spirituality and politics active in the United States, both in Whitman's time and today.  -45-  Chapter II C H A P T E R II - T H E S P E A K E R  This chapter characterizes the speaker o f Leaves  of Grass.  It focuses on the  development o f the speaker's subjectivity, tracing the characteristic tendencies o f this speaker's consciousness, especially as they connect to his awareness o f his own desituation and disembodiment. K e y themes analysed i n this chapter include the stylistic traits o f the verse that serve to characterize the speaker as an interpreter or translator, moderating between the spiritual and material worlds for his readers. "Song o f M y s e l f and "Starting from Paumanok" have been selected as the two poems for analysis, as both function to introduce the speaker o f Leaves of Grass and Whitman's poetic project as a whole. M y argument in this chapter is that Whitman's speaker must disembody himself to position himself between the physical and spiritual realms and interpret them for his readers; moreover, his privileged access to spiritual understanding allows the speaker to represent himself as a divine entity, capable o f creative activity and able to show others (readers) the path toward their own divinity.  2.1  S T A R T I N G POINTS: " S T A R T I N G F R O M P A U M A N O K " A N D " S O N G O F M Y S E L F "  "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f are ideal poems with which to begin m y analysis o f Leaves of Grass because each poem has served as an introduction, or starting point, to the volume over the course o f its many republications. Moreover, the chief rhetorical aim o f each poem is to introduce; the very titles give readers an indication o f their content. "Starting from Paumanok," which was the introductory poem in the 1860 Leaves  of Grass  (the poem was originally titled "Proto-Leaf), engages a concept o f  -46-  Chapter II origins, and thematically discusses Whitman's poetic project as a whole, as it unfolds from his declared point o f origin. Meanwhile, "Song o f M y s e l f was the lead poem i n the 1855 edition, and provides a thorough introduction to the speaker o f Leaves of Grass, as well as to his major themes. Thus, the style o f each poem is especially appropriate for demonstrating the elements o f consciousness and o f cohesion that contribute to the speaker's  disembodiment,  and to  an understanding  o f his poetic  efforts  as  an  interpretation o f the spiritual realm for his readers. "Starting from Paumanok" identifies several o f the themes and motifs taken up throughout Leaves of Grass, including the themes o f Love, Democracy, and Religion, describing a poetic "programme o f chants" (39) to be undertaken. In the poem, the speaker introduces himself and his project, and finally identifies his audience. The poem takes its title from the Native American name for L o n g Island, N Y , Whitman's birthplace; moreover, this birthplace provides a starting point from which the poem's speaker sets out to encompass all o f America. The speaker arguably does so b y portraying himself as an American everyman, a person who could be from anywhere, to whom all Americans can relate. In singing his own song, as an American everyman, he sings the song o f every American. Critics have noted that as an introduction, "Starting from Paumanok" does not simply introduce what is to follow, but also serves as an example o f it, exemplifying the treatment o f themes as they are announced. Meanwhile, "Song o f M y s e l f has probably attracted more attention and criticism than any other Whitman poem. Originally untitled, it formed the bulk o f the first edition o f Leaves of Grass i n 1855. In this poem, some scholars find the Poet o f Democracy, while others are convinced o f his homosexuality through his advocacy o f Amativeness. "Some see Whitman as the poet o f nature and the  -47-  Chapter II body. Others consider h i m the poet o f religion and the soul. Still others take both tendencies into account by coining phrases like 'inverted mysticism' to describe his outlook" (Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America 235). While interpretations are wideranging, critics tend to agree that the poem describes a developmental process, recording the birth o f the poetic self in an ordinary man and describing his journey into the world. However, I am suggesting that both "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f place a key emphasis on spiritual themes, developing the speaker as a creative, disembodied entity who demonstrates characteristics typically attributed to divinity. Moreover, i n "Song o f M y s e l f especially, he takes on a role o f translator, interpreting the spiritual world for his readers. "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f make their spiritual themes more or less explicit. In "Starting from Paumanok," the spiritual theme seems to be o f critical importance, as the speaker announces in his "programme o f chants" (39), "I w i l l not make a poem nor the least part o f a poem but has reference to the soul, / Because having look'd at the objects o f the universe, I find there is no one nor any particle o f one but has reference to the soul" (175-176). The pervasiveness o f the soul i n the universe, as Whitman understands it, is reflected i n his subjugation o f his artistic and political themes to "the greatness o f Religion" (SP 133). In section eight o f the poem, Walt calls out to a generic young man, asking o f his occupations, whether "literature, science, art, amours? / These ostensible realities, politics, points? / [...] ambition or business whatever it may be?" (SP 115-117). He is quick to note in the next verse that these activities "swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's sake, / For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential life o f the earth, / A n y more than such are to religion" (SP 119-121). This  -48-  Chapter II representation o f religion consuming all worldly concerns bespeaks its pre-eminence in Whitman's thought. Although Whitman devotes much attention to promoting himself as a new poet, a voice for America, and to championing democracy throughout Leaves Grass,  of  the importance allocated to spirituality here suggests that this is indeed the  overarching theme o f the work as a whole. A t this juncture, it is important to recall that what Whitman means by "religion" has been shaped by influences as disparate as Elias Hicks's evangelical preaching o f Quakerism's Inner Light, the Deism o f the French Revolution as related by T o m Paine (a revered figure i n the Whitman family household throughout Walt's youth), the Transcendental philosophizing o f speakers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the mysticism o f Emmanuel Swedenborg. A l l o f these fall under Whitman's term "religion," though none is doctrinally compatible with the others. Indeed, as the speaker indicates, " M y faith is the greatest o f faiths and the least o f faiths, / Enclosing worship ancient and modern and all between ancient and modern" ( S M 10978)—this amassing o f religions within his faith system suggests that what Whitman means when he uses the term "religion" is actually broader that what it implies; thus, I prefer the term "spirituality." Indeed, as he promised i n "Starting from Paumanok," even the least parts o f his poems make reference to the soul (175). Spirituality is implicit to "Song o f Myself," where as early as section two, the speaker introduces the language o f air, incorporating images o f houses o f perfumes, the atmosphere, "The smoke o f m y own breath," and " M y respiration and inspiration" (22, 24). These symbols have often been interpreted as indicative o f the ethereal nature—that is, both insubstantial and otherworldly—of the speaker's message. The various air-images appeal to a concept in Swedenborgian thought  -49-  Chapter II that is related to spiritual essence. Popular in Whitman's time, the Swedenborgians believed "the 'divine breath,' also called the 'influx' or 'afflatus,' was taken i n from the spiritual atmosphere through the lungs, which in turn emanated an 'efflux' o f its own into the atmosphere" (Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America  267). Thus, "The smoke o f m y own  breath," gives Whitman's speaker a divine voice—"the smoke" being his poetry. Meanwhile, this divine quality attached to "respiration and inspiration" is also identified as belonging to, or as a part o f the speaker through the possessive determiner "my." Moreover, it draws one o f the first ties between the inspiration (breathing in) o f spiritually charged air and the (creative) inspiration made manifest i n poetry. Here the parallel between activity in the spiritual realm and the creative act o f poetry is forged. A s in "Starting from Paumanok," it seems the spiritual project underlies all o f "Song o f Myself." W h i l e "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f were no longer the introductory titles by the time the 1891-92 edition o f Leaves of Grass was published, they make early appearances in the volume and continue to serve an important role as points of access to the speaker and his themes, and to the volume as a whole. Indeed, from the brief analysis o f each poem above, it is evident that they establish spirituality as a dominant theme early on i n Leaves of Grass. However, they are also interesting points o f access to the speaker—who is fundamentally the point o f origin o f the entire volume. It is with h i m that the themes o f the poems originate because he is the speaking subject, the perspective o f consciousness from which experience is recounted. The connection between starting points—or points o f access, whether to a volume of text, to a specific discourse, or to a speaker's consciousness—and subjects can be  -50-  Chapter II traced back to the level,of language. In Chapter I, language was described as a system o f meaning-making and meaning-communication. To make and communicate meaning, language tends to build upon a starting point o f prior knowledge shared by a speaker and his or her audience. W i t h regard to topics o f discussion, this prior knowledge can be established on the basis o f a shared environment between speaker and listener, on the basis o f common knowledge (those things a speaker expects everyone to know about the world, and most people to know about their common experience in a given age and place), on the basis o f prior events shared between speaker and listener, and which the speaker expects his listeners to remember, or on the basis o f information established earlier in an ongoing discourse. However, the requirement o f shared prior knowledge on which to build new information is also extended to the purely grammatical level. Chafe explains that the functional role o f starting point is grammaticized i n subjecthood (84). This means that the grammatical subject serves as the common ground acknowledged by interlocutors, to which new information can be attached. To some extent, we as listeners or readers rely on the subject for linguistic and cognitive guidance i n whatever discourse emerges from it. The grammatical subject can emerge from prior thought and discourse, or from the environment, as given or accessible information for both speaker and listener (97 per cent o f the time, according to Chafe). B y given, we mean the information is already currently active within the discourse. Accessible information is semiactive, existing in the peripheral consciousness o f the listener or reader, either because it was mentioned earlier i n the discourse, or is associated with ideas currently in discussion, or in conversational cases, it may be an element o f the environment o f the conversation. N e w information is that o f which we are not aware until it is introduced. For instance, i f I  -51 -  Chapter II tell a friend, "I adopted a dog yesterday," the subject "I" is given or accessible from the context o f the conversation. The new information regarding dog adoption is attached to the subject and is comprehensible because the listener knows who "I" is. If I were instead to tell my friend, "Marsha adopted a dog yesterday," when the listener does not know Marsha, he would have questions—Who is Marsha? W h y are you telling me this? W h y should I care? The information would be infelicitously communicated because it did not have an acceptable starting point. While Chafe notes that subjecthood is not an expression o f topichood (84), the grammatical subject is important because it exercises some limitations on discourse topics. For instance, in connection with the subject, "my cat," listeners expect cat-like activities: eating, drinking, sleeping, hunting, getting sick, having fights, having kittens, coughing up hairballs, and so on. One would not expect a speaker to recount to a friend, " M y cat painted a masterpiece"—a cat painting seems nonsensical (though cat art is currently trendy). The information attached to "my cat" i n this statement is completely unexpected and silly because it is relatively unlikely to be a topic o f conversation in connection with this particular subject. In this way, the grammatical subject both guides listeners through information and its activation, and also limits the possibilities—or probabilities—for the topical progression o f the discourse. On a discourse level, the speaking subject or representing consciousness which recounts experience shares the grammatical subject's function as a starting point for discourse. This is because the emphasis on activity levels i n discussing given, accessible, and new information in a discourse is decided by the representing consciousness, and is based on the speaker's evaluation o f the listener's place in the conversation (or written  -52-  Chapter II discourse), background knowledge, and information activity levels. Thus, a speaking subject determines starting points o f new threads o f discourse, and also serves as a guide through the new information it presents. In conversation, the status o f subjecthood can alternate between two or more parties, but in writing the speaking subject is often limited to one narrative voice and perspective directing the discourse and guiding a reader. The 1  speaking subject also somewhat limits the topics o f discourse, although this limitation has to do with the narrating consciousness's knowledge base, interests, or common ground with a listener, as well as prior discourse. Similarly, as already noted, the starting point o f a volume o f text—"Starting from Paumanok" and "Song o f M y s e l f ' in the case o f Leaves of Grass—provides  a groundwork for further development o f information themes and  outlines limits to the discourse at hand. Clearly, starting points are at work on all levels o f language and discourse to provide a basis for building new information. Whitman's speaker is unlike any other. A s a point o f access, he remains remarkably indefinable. The next section w i l l consider how Whitman uses language to disembody his speaker, and how in preventing readers from situating h i m , the speaker is able to introduce readers to new spiritual understanding.  2.2  DISEMBODIED TRANSLATION  Whitman's speaker is a powerful first-person narrator, full o f contradictions, in many ways fundamentally disembodied and un-locatable, and loaded with creative  1  There are some readily available exceptions, for instance, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Each  chapter is narrated from thefirst-personperspective of a different character. Thus, a series of voices work to guide readers in very distinct ways, and a different set of reader expectations accompanies the narratives of each speaker.  -53-  Chapter II agency. H i s project is one o f translation. A close reading o f a mere three lines provides some evidence for all o f these claims: "I w i l l make the poems o f materials, for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems, / A n d I w i l l make the poems o f m y body and o f mortality, / For I think I shall then supply myself with the poems o f m y soul and o f immortality" (SP 71-3). The speaker claims to make poems o f materials, o f the body and of mortality, and that these w i l l somehow transform into poems o f spirituality, the soul and immortality. This establishes a rhetorical opposition, or contradiction, between one term and its counterpart. In the case o f mortality and immortality in particular, we note the use o f antonymy to support the cohesive structure o f these lines, lending more rhetorical support to the supposition that material and spiritual, and body and soul, are oppositional i n their significance. The speaker's reiterated emphasis on his role in making these poems suggests that it is also his agency that transforms or translates the worldly into the spiritual. Finally, in these lines Chafe's indicators o f the flow o f consciousness (deixis, tense and person) can be used to establish that Whitman is using the displaced mode—the  represented  introverted  conscious  and  representing  experience,  consciousnesses  imagining an  eventual  are  united  extroverted  within  the  (embodied)  experience spatiotemporally displaced from the (disembodied) narrating self. In the following analysis o f "Starting from Paumanok"  and  "Song o f Myself,"  I will  demonstrate how the speaker consciously refuses to situate himself within a place, body or time. "Starting from Paumanok" begins with the speaker identifying his birthplace and his beginning-place, Paumanok (a Native American name for Long Island that was already archaic i n Whitman's lifetime). A s a place o f origin, Paumanok has shaped the  -54-  Chapter II poet-speaker—there he is "well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother" (SP 2). It is an excellent choice to begin—it establishes h i m as an American-born man familiar with the geography o f his home, with some degree o f respect for his family and his nation's history. Most o f Whitman's intended audience members (Americans) are likely to be able to relate to the speaker at this point, thanks to their similar attitudes toward their homeland; thus, the speaker provides common ground between himself and readers, offering a point from which he can introduce his poetic project that is nevertheless exclusive enough to appeal to a particular audience, namely, Americans. However, the speaker leads his reader rapidly away from this starting point:  Starting from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born, Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother, After roaming many lands, lover o f populous pavements, Dweller i n Mannahatta m y city, or on southern savannas, Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a miner i n California, Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, m y drink from the spring, Or withdrawn to muse and meditate i n some deep recess, Far from the clank o f crowds intervals passing rapt and happy, [...] Solitary, singing i n the West, I strike up for a N e w World. (SP 1-8, 14)  -55-  Chapter II In the first eight lines o f "Starting from Paumanok," the speaker identifies an island, a city, and two additional states by name, and associates himself both with crowds through "populous pavements," and with solitude, "far from the clank o f crowds." A t first glance, his presence seems to hop across the United States, stopping in urban and rural landscapes, and i n undefined locations, like "some deep recess," somewhere, as well as i n particular locations, such as "the spring" i n Dakota's woods. One must ask: has he got a specific spring in mind? Or is this an instance o f the generic "the," the definite article that accompanies terms assumed to be in everyone's mental encyclopedia o f common knowledge, like "the phone book" or "the bus"? Even i f this is not the case, the term "spring" lexically collocates with both "woods" and "drink," meaning that readers are likely to accept the definite article for "spring" because o f the cohesive context that leads us to expect a spring to drink from i n the woods. After we watch Walt skip across the American landscape, readers get their first glimpse o f where the speaker is and what he is doing in the last line o f the section: "Solitary, singing i n the West, I strike up for a N e w W o r l d " (SP 14). Here Chafe's tools o f tense and person point to a representing consciousness united with the self o f the extroverted conscious experience. It seems like this could be a glimpse o f a speaker i n the present, proximal moment o f the immediate mode, as though he were i n the room speaking to us, the readers. However, other elements in this line suggest this is not the case. The speaker's description o f himself as "Solitary, singing i n the West," makes it seem as though the present-tense, "I strike up," is a staged moment. A r e we "in the West" with the speaker, listening to his song? If that is the case, why does he tell us he is solitary, and in the West? A parallel situation would be riding in a car with someone who  -56-  Chapter II tells us, "Here I am, a lone driver in the car," even though the person is obviously the only driver and we, as listeners, obviously do not need to be told, as we are also in the car. The conditions o f copresence that underlie the immediate mode insist that interlocutors are sharing the same environment—there should be no need to tell us he is alone, nor that he is in the West. O n the other hand, because the speaker does give us this additional information with this ambiguous place-reference, "in the West," we can suspect that his represented consciousness is in fact separated from the extroverted representing consciousness, and that this is an introverted representation where the speaker imagines himself striking up in the West. He shares this imaginative act with his readers as though it is presently taking place. The final possibility is that this is a convoluted form o f displaced immediacy, where the speaker is trying to make up for the inherent displacement o f writing by disguising an introverted representing consciousness with the present tense and trying to ignore that he can't quite pull his whole body (extroverted experience) along with him, to incarnating himself physically i n the presence o f his reader. Although the mode o f expression remains unclear, it is evident that the speaker is working hard i n unconventional ways to try to create timeless conditions o f shared common ground (here I am with m y reader "in the West") on which to build linguistic copresence with an unknown and unreachable reader. Nevertheless, the location o f his consciousness remains too vague to situate, especially after it has hopped around the United States. W e must accept that he is in the West, and sings for "a N e w World." It is important to note that he does not sing for "the N e w World," which i n a nineteenthcentury context, might still associate "the West" with the United States or Canada. Rather, the use o f the indefinite article prohibits any definite location. However, it could  -57-  Chapter II certainly be argued that this encourages the singing o f America as an idea, rather than as a place, a notion Ed Folsom suggests in his article, "What a Filthy Presidentiad!" This first passage of "Starting from Paumanok" also introduces ambiguity as to the speaker's identity. He describes his prior experiences, portraying his represented consciousness  (a past, extroverted self) as a soldier, miner and traveller, before  identifying his new present role as the poet-singer for a New World. This ambiguity is further complicated by his use of the conjunction "or," which, according to Halliday, signals an alternative. Imagine this same passage with "and"—it would read like a list of the places he's been and the jobs he's had. However, the use of "or" suggests these roles and locations are all equivalent and alternative to each other. In some ways, this is not problematic, as he can well imagine himself in "Mannahatta my city" or in "my home in Dakota's woods," as "a soldier," or "a miner"—each of these locations and identities could be as much his and his experience as the next. However, the use of "or" also allows the poet-speaker to avoid situating either his represented or representing consciousness in any of these places or identities as he shifts from one alternative to the next. Indeed, the only place we are certain he has been is his present non-specific location, "in the West," and the only identity we can be sure is his, is that of singer. The speaker bears a similar relationship to his body in "Song of Myself," where the opening lines again identify his questionable embodiment: "I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you" (1-3). Critics like Jorge Salessi, Jose Quiroga, and Jorge Luis Borges agree that the imagery of atoms in these lines marks the beginning of the disintegration of the speaker's body, as the speaker's self becomes a "democratic nobody"  -58-  Chapter II and a "desired (no)body" (Salessi and Quiroga 124, 130). However, these lines also introduce readers to a key aspect o f Whitman's philosophy, the notion o f the connection of all things through shared atoms. Here, the speaker uses the immediate mode, directly addressing readers as though we are there i n front o f him. The speaker sets out his expectations for the remainder o f this song and celebration: that the reader w i l l join him, not specifically in the celebrating or the singing, but i n the assumptions he makes, by virtue o f a shared atomic nature that can be logically understood but remains intangible, as atoms are too small to be perceived individually. Again, in placing emphasis on shared atoms, the poet-speaker  is striving to establish common ground, even physical  copresence, with a reader whom he knows may be separated from h i m by two blocks in Brooklyn or by two centuries in any part o f the world. He implicitly recognizes literature's posterity and strives to overcome whatever gaps may exist between his moment o f celebratory writing and his eventual readers, attempting to force the deictic laws to bend to his vision. However, Whitman is operating here between the realms o f the embodied (he shares our atoms) and the disembodied (we can neither see nor hear his atoms, nor distinguish them from atoms belonging to other matter). Thus, his choice o f imagery for representing his embodiment for the reader, at moments like this in the immediate mode, counters the notion o f embodiment itself. For instance, consider the final lines o f the poem:  I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh i n eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.  -59-  Chapter II 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.  Y o u w i l l hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, A n d filter and fibre your blood.  Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you. ( S M 1337-1346)  In this staging o f the death o f the speaker, the disintegration o f his body becomes explicit. He becomes airy, he effuses, he drifts, he transforms into dirt. Although each line begins with the speaking and grammatical subject making an assertion, the content o f these lines describes the spiritual diffusion o f the speaker into the elements o f nature. In some ways, this is contrary to the reader's expectation that a repeated emphasis on the unity o f speaking and grammatical subjects i n the immediate proximal moment would serve to create a strong grammatical and topical starting point, reinforcing common ground and shared experience between the speaker and reader. If we understand this common ground and shared experience as situated i n the material world, we must conclude that the poet is being elusive. However, I believe it is important to recognize the liminal quality o f the speaker's embodiment. The moment o f his departure has been immanent throughout the poem, as the atoms-and-air imagery that returns here was present at the beginning o f the  -60-  Chapter II poem, already gesturing toward his eventual dissipation. In attempting to create the conditions o f copresence with the materials o f energy and air, Whitman's speaker deliberately embodies himself in the most elusive o f all material forms. H e is neither matter, nor spirit, but something, somewhere in between. Hence, we have the spectacular final line o f this poem: "I stop somewhere waiting for you." ( S M 1346) In the first-person present tense, this would be a true instance o f the immediate mode, where an extroverted represented and representing consciousness is in direct interaction with its environment and interlocutors; except rather than using a proximal deictic adverb, Whitman employs "somewhere." N o t only is his represented consciousness not i n the proximal immediate moment, "here," but it is not even "there," or "just ahead," i n a location known to the interlocutors. Rather, it is "somewhere," as though either the speaker himself has no idea where his represented consciousness is at that present moment, or as though he definitively does not want his reader to know where his represented consciousness is at that present moment. This sort o f representation o f consciousness remains unclassified by Wallace Chafe. The closest parallel he can offer is language without a represented consciousness, but this is typically i n the third-person and employs an unacknowledged consciousness as omniscient narrator. Y e t Whitman's speaker remains a consistently acknowledged (even egotistical) consciousness, constantly promoting himself as a deictic centre, and as a subject. W e w i l l return to this idea in the third section o f this chapter, as this formation o f a new kind  o f consciousness is tremendously significant i n  understanding Whitman's expression o f the divine.  -61-  Chapter II In addition to distancing himself from a specific body or location, the speaker o f Leaves of Grass also takes an ambiguous temporal stance. In "Starting from Paumanok," he establishes his relationship to the past, to a literary and intellectual heritage. H e writes:  Dead poets, philosophs, priests, Martyrs, artists, inventors, governments long since, Language-shapers on other shores, Nations once powerful, now reduced, withdrawn, or desolate, I dare not proceed till I respectfully credit what you have left wafted hither, I have perused it, own it is admirable, (moving awhile among it,) Think nothing can ever be greater, nothing can ever deserve more than it deserves, Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it, I stand i n m y place with m y own day here. (SP 54-62)  Just when readers think the speaker has paid his respects to the past, to the great ancient nations now reduced, and is about to tell us when he is speaking from, he demolishes his relationship to the past in the line that follows, insisting, "Regarding it all intently a long while, then dismissing it" (SP 61). Moreover, the representing consciousness again shifts to the indefinable present with a spectacular instance o f a sudden shift into the true immediate mode: "I stand i n m y place with m y own day here" (SP 62). One might argue that the representing consciousness works in this way to establish the represented  -62-  Chapter II consciousness i n the eternal present moment—his o w n day is always here—but consciousness certainly forges no permanent ties with any single present or past moment; none that we can identify, and none that we can measure from. Whitman's intentionally  speaker  is deliberate i n his elusiveness. H e consciously and  collapses space  and time, leaping through both  continuously. H e  acknowledges his distortion o f the normal progress o f time: "I w i l l thread a thread through m y poems that time and events are compact" (SP 170); a few lines later he refuses to privilege any one moment over others: "I w i l l not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days" (SP 174). H e also openly acknowledges his elusive stance toward his readers: "For your life adhere to me / (I may have to be persuaded many times before I consent to give myself really to you, but what o f that?)" (SP 231-232). The speaker first invites readers along, but never promises that we w i l l catch up with him. Instead, we must stick to the path he sets out for us, following i n the hopes o f catching a glimpse o f h i m somewhere ahead. The speaker functions as a guide, always leading the way—perhaps we can hear his voice, and we can envision what he calls to our attention, but we can never catch hold o f him. O f course, as we shall explore in part three o f this chapter, his purpose is not to let us catch up; rather, he insists: " Y o u are also asking me questions and I hear you, /1 answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for y o u r s e l f (SM 1223-4). Our glimpses o f Walt leave us trying to "adhere" with only "echoes" o f his songs, and "hints" (SP 266) that serve to pique the reader's curiosity about the places he w i l l lead us throughout the rest o f the volume, and to urge readers on i n their attempts to locate him. A s we shall see, i n the process o f following his path, he hopes his reader w i l l "travel it for yourself (SM 1211). It is surprising that the speaker should choose to  -63-  Chapter I I disembody himself, and to refuse to allow a reader to locate him in space or time. It runs counter to any instinctual notion of what it might mean to be the American Bard, or the Poet of Democracy. One would think Whitman would choose to situate himself distinctly within the United States, and that he would portray his speaker as an embodied American citizen. But this is not the case, and it is no coincidence or mistake. Whitman's speaker is deliberately elusive to serve both spiritual and political ends, as we shall examine later in this chapter and in the chapters to come. Moreover, Whitman's disembodiment is fundamental to his poetic project. The key to understanding how it functions is not to situate the poet, but to understand how he situates himself between places: just as he jumped from occupation to occupation, from place to place, and so often splits his consciousness between one location and another, he uses imagery in similar ways. While we will explore this at greater length in Chapters III and IV, I would simply like to note here that traditional Whitman scholarship has identified a more or less straightforward connection between the spiritual world and the sea, the night, and the stars, and the material world and the earth and daily human occupations. Of course, there is significant overlapping between land and sea when it comes to offering metaphors for the spiritual world, as Whitman is constantly working to reveal the spiritual world hidden just beneath the surface of the material realm. Moments of poetic inspiration, and of spiritual understanding, are consistently recounted as occurring in liminal spaces, border zones that are in some ways placeless places. In these locations, the spiritual and material realms merge, facilitating communication between the two. David Kuebrich has observed that the seashore and any bathing in smaller bodies of water are consistently  associated with spiritual insight and poetic inspiration.  -64-  Chapter II Meanwhile, George Hutchinson has associated this positioning o f the poet-self between realms as a parallel to the shaman's function o f transcending the earthly world to establish a link o f communication with the spirits when he enters a trance-state. A n example o f this crossing over between realms occurs as early as section two o f "Song o f Myself," where the speaker offers an image o f himself absorbing the spiritual afflatus o f the atmosphere, discussed earlier as a spiritual medium:  The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste o f the distillation, it is odorless, It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it, I w i l l go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, I am mad for it to be i n contact with me. (17-20)  Here the speaker strips down, baptizing his body in the atmosphere. A n d yet, he offers readers a more traditional setting for this baptism: a "bank b y the wood," calling to mind a stream or river, water-mediums traditionally used in baptism. Moreover, the baptism occurs in a border zone, b y the implied water's edge. The speaker also asks readers to j o i n him in these liminal spaces to more fully understand h i m : "If you would understand me go to the heights or water-shore, / The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion o f waves a key, / The maul, the oar, the hand-saw, second m y words" ( S M 12523). In this location, the crossover between realms becomes explicit. In Whitman's poetry spiritual insights can be found i n the sea especially, but also i n nature; thus "The nearest gnat is an explanation, and a drop or motion o f waves a key." However, the water-shore  -65-  Chapter II provides the site for the merger between the spiritual and material realms, and here spiritual insights can also be found in, "The maul, the oar, the hand-saw." From this privileged position that enables access to both spiritual and material realities, these manmade objects can now be interpreted as lending support to the speaker's spiritual conclusions. In addition, Whitman's speaker is also best situated to interpret the spiritual world for his readers, thanks to his vantage point between the worldly and spiritual realms. "For Whitman the physical is the path to the metaphysical ('path' not i n the sense that the metaphysical is located elsewhere, but in the sense that the metaphysical is a radically different way o f experiencing the physical)" (Irwin 865). Whitman illustrates this "radically different way o f experiencing the physical" through a process he calls translation: "The pleasures o f heaven are with me and the pains o f hell are with me, / The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue" ( S M 423424). That is to say, he embraces what seems good, but transforms what seems bad through a process o f continuous redefinition. For instance, Whitman writes, "Has any one supposed it lucky to be born? / 1 hasten to inform h i m or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it" ( S M 131-2). Death o f course, is not something the average person eagerly seeks out, and so Whitman must redefine it to illustrate that it is not as bad as we might think. In "Song o f M y s e l f he approaches this from two directions. Kuebrich notes that on the one hand, Whitman views the sea as mother, as a divine womb, and as an embodiment o f the spiritual realm, but that Whitman also, at times, portrays the sea as deadly, as taking lives that she has given. Kuebrich argues that Whitman does not see a reason to fear death in this; rather, because the sea is the divine mother, Whitman  -66-  Chapter II envisions death as a ship setting sail on this spiritual ocean, heading for new adventures. Kuebrich concludes that for Whitman, death is a comfort, not a terror. Indeed, from a lexical perspective, words connected to the sea, the soul, and death appear often enough together to forge a collocational bond throughout Whitman's poetry. O n the other hand, Whitman seeks to illustrate that death is but an illusion in an endless cycle o f renewable life. H e does this by first associating death with grass: " A n d now it [the grass] seems to me the beautiful uncut hair o f graves" ( S M 110). Next he proceeds to analyse the symbolic implications o f the fact that grass grows over the graves o f men, women, and children alike:  What do you think has become o f the young and old men? A n d what do you think has become o f the women and children?  They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, A n d i f ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, A n d ceas'd the moment life appear'd.  A l l goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, A n d to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. ( S M 12330)  -67-  Chapter II Thus, death becomes a positive experience, a return to the spiritual realm and a transformation, but not an ending, and not something to fear. Death is redefined as the doorway to a closer contact with the spiritual realm, and thereby, to new forms o f life. However, it is especially important to note that death is not the only term being translated in this passage. Grass undergoes a process o f redefinition here and throughout Leaves of Grass. Indeed, it is the most consistently redefined symbol; each time grass is mentioned in "Song o f M y s e l f it is identified through a different metaphor. Grass has been read as having multiple meanings by nearly every critic. Leaves of Grass is the title o f Whitman's volume: from the title we can speculate that the leaves are his sheets o f poetry, and this is confirmed when, in "Here the Frailest Leaves o f M e , " he identifies his leaves as poems. In "Song o f Myself," grass begins as a site where the speaker can loaf with his soul, but in section six alone (a mere 131 lines), it is redefined eight times. First it is "the flag o f m y disposition, out o f hopeful green stuff woven" ( S M 101), representative o f a hopeful individual personality. Next, "it is the handkerchief o f the Lord, / A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt" ( S M 102-103); perhaps it is a manifestation o f the divine power at work i n the world, perhaps simply the maker's signature. It becomes the "babe o f the vegetation" ( S M 105), suggesting it is i n the process o f development. A l s o , it is a "uniform hieroglyphic" ( S M 106) that sprouts among all races, among all nations, and among all classes; hence it is a symbol o f equality between all people. But through its symbolism o f equality and its accrual o f meanings, grass also connotes democracy. Having already mentioned that it is the flag o f the poet's hopeful disposition, the grass becomes symbolic o f the individual and the many—each blade is part o f a much larger lawn. When the speaker tells us it grows "among black folks as among white, / Kanuck,  -68-  Chapter II Tuckahoe, Congressman, C u f f  ( S M 108-9), the only identity mentioned that is not  associated with a racial group or a group o f people from a particular origin is the Congressman. Through this implication o f America's political system, grass—already individual and equality—takes on the added meaning o f democracy. Next it becomes the "uncut hair o f graves" ( S M 110), and a symbol o f death. The seventh redefinition is more o f an alignment between the grass growing from graves and the poet's perception o f "so many uttering tongues, / A n d I perceive they do not come from the roofs o f mouths for nothing" ( S M 119-20). The speaker contextualizes this by saying, "I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women, / A n d the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out o f their laps" ( S M 121-2), which suggests that the tongues o f the dead (leaves o f grass) are giving hints about themselves, and about death, and that these are meaningful utterances that we must interpret. Finally, the "smallest sprout shows there is really no death" ( S M 126) as grass becomes symbolic o f an eternal life cycle, one which Whitman's speaker joins, incidentally, at the end o f "Song o f Myself," when he bequeaths himself to the dirt "to grow from the grass I love" (1339). Later in the poem, the grass is also "no less than the journey-work o f the stars" ( S M 663), suggesting a relationship between grass and stars, which Whitman reveres as a sort o f spiritual light or truth, revealed only in darkness. The implication is that grass offers similar spiritual truth. The constant redefinition o f the grass maintains a consistent metaphorical structure, and the meaning o f grass is continuously added to until it means everything. Thus Leaves of Grass becomes the title for Whitman's volume, which is no longer a simple volume o f poetry, but a record o f his understanding o f the functioning o f the entire cosmos, set down i n words. Grass is the symbol that ties all others together:  -69-  Chapter II  These are really the thoughts o f all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me, If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing, If they are not the riddle and the untying o f the riddle they are nothing, If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.  This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, This is the common air that bathes the globe. ( S M 355-360)  The final two lines o f this passage illustrate that human thoughts are as common as grass and air. However, the process o f continuous redefinition creates lexical cohesion between things and what they are translated into. W h i l e the lexical collocations between grass and poems,  individuality,  God's  autograph,  development,  equality,  democracy,  death,  meaningful utterance, eternal life, and spiritual truth are not as strong in our minds as those which turn up together more regularly in all language (like grass and green), they do exist, and we do begin to expect them as we read through Leaves of Grass. So when we arrive at, "This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is" ( S M 359), we do not simply think o f the thoughts o f humans, but also o f individuality, equality, and democracy, o f the soul, G o d , death, and eternal life, and o f the expression o f the entire cosmos in one volume o f poems. Moreover, the next line returns us to the atoms-and-air imagery o f the start o f "Song o f Myself." The common spiritual air makes divine breath o f human thoughts and their expression, and the grass now also becomes  -70-  Chapter I I symbolic of the smallest, most pervasive elements of the natural world, like the atoms, which always represents the saturation of the natural world with evidence of the divine order. Through his process of translation, Whitman is teaching us to read his words, metaphors, and symbols and derive meaning that is exponentially greater than any dictionary can offer. He is teaching us to see the world in these terms and find out for ourselves the spiritual significance of the material world.  2.3 T H E DIVINE SPEAKER AND THE SPIRITUAL PROJECT  Throughout "Starting from Paumanok" and "Song of Myself," the speaker appears and disappears in both spatial and temporal dimensions. We have seen how he achieves this—how, constantly keeping the reader at bay, he functions as a haunting guide, always one step ahead, always urging readers forward. But this commitment to disembodiment seems to contradict some of his chief aims; he presents a full programme for his chants in these poems, offering the suggestion that he is the poet of America, of democracy, and of comrades, among other claims. One would think his narrative voice should not be impossible to situate, that poems on themes so definitively aligned with America would feature a speaker tied much more closely to his nation. On the other hand, the speaker's disembodiment is fundamentally connected to the poetic act: border zones between the physical and spiritual worlds serve as sites for spiritual insight and poetic inspiration. The speaker's elusiveness at all levels of language is deliberate, and is necessary for him to maintain this dislocation and disembodiment. In refusing to situate himself, the speaker is able to translate between the material and spiritual worlds. In doing so, the poet clearly holds a privileged role—he mediates between these realms for his readers, for those who  -71 -  Chapter II cannot accomplish this themselves. But this privileging o f his own voice seems to run counter to the democratic themes he claims to promote. In this section o f this chapter, I hope to resolve some o f these contradictions, illustrating how Whitman's understanding of spirituality and o f the poet's role in communicating it are inherently linked to democratic ideals. The reconciliation o f spirituality and o f the poet's privileged vision with the ideals o f democracy is possible only because Whitman portrays the human as inherently divine. However, he cannot simply rely on telling his readers they too are divine; his speaker must serve as a model, and he must work to lead readers along the path o f his own selfrealization in order that they can recognize their own potential godhood, and in doing so, gain access to the privileged vision o f spiritual and material realms. Thus, Whitman begins with his speaker as a model o f a human creative divinity. H e announces, "I know that the hand o f God is the promise o f m y own, / A n d I know that the spirit o f God is the brother o f my own" ( S M 92-93). Here he suggests his human hand has the yet unrealized potential power o f G o d the creator. Moreover, his spirit is already on an equal footing with God's. This reorients the traditional trinity o f G o d the Father, G o d the Son, and G o d the H o l y Spirit, establishing the Human in the fourth position o f a holy quadrupole. This surpasses the concept o f Imago D e i , that humans were created i n the "image o f God," for it asserts a fundamental equality between G o d and Human. Indeed, I am not the first scholar to remark upon Whitman's lines, "I believe in you m y soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you, / A n d you must not be abased to the other" ( S M 82-3), that his odd use o f "I am" recalls the biblical usage: " A n d G o d said unto Moses, I A M T H A T I A M : and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children o f Israel, I A M hath sent me unto you"  -72-  Chapter II (Exodus 3:14). Not only does the speaker imply in these lines that humans are dignified enough to not subjugate themselves before G o d , but i n referring to G o d as "the other I am," he suggests he is also "I am," and also divine. O f course, i n the religious context o f Whitman's America, this is an unheard o f formulation. It transcends the Transcendental notions o f the natural nobility o f man, it outshines the Quaker understanding o f the guiding inner light, and it utterly rejects the emphasis o f Calvinist doctrine on the inherent sinfulness o f man. David Kuebrich argues that Whitman strives to create a new religion i n Leaves of Grass:  Whitman modernized [traditional religious elements] by adapting them to the theories o f evolutionary science and contemporary American political and religious thought. B y integrating these traditional elements with modern culture, Whitman arrived at a vision i n which the evolution o f nature and the instinctual and emotional longings o f humanity are seen as manifestations o f an immanent divinity in its upward ascent toward reunion with its transcendent source, and the course o f history is viewed as a movement toward the universal redemption o f humankind. (Minor Prophecy 8-9)  The speaker is not content to merely understand the divine order o f the cosmos. Rather, he is on the path toward human redemption, toward the realization o f human god-hood, insisting, "The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the best, and be as prodigious; / B y m y life-lumps! becoming already a creator" ( S M 1051-1052). The  -73-  Chapter II speaker's divinity becomes complete when he becomes a creator himself. This passage offers insight into what humans can create that renders them as divine as G o d , as it operates on three interpretive levels. Physically, "life-lumps" is a colloquialism for semen, referring to procreative ability, which is also the ability to create life. O n an intellectual level, the speaker creates his poetry. Finally, on a metaphysical level, Walt creates his own cosmos, his new realms o f consciousness, by perceiving the existing material world i n new ways through his cohesive redefinitions. He merges the physical, intellectual and metaphysical aspects o f his creativity to render himself both potentially and already inherently divine. He is only potentially divine because he casts this prediction in the future "I shall do as much good as the best," but also situates this transformation into divinity i n the present when he says he is "becoming already a creator," where already gestures to the present moment. Moreover, throughout his poetry, Whitman periodically slips into the omniscient and omnipresent mode Chafe refers to as language without a represented consciousness. This is where a narrative is reported to a reader by an unacknowledged consciousness that does not appear to be on the scene it portrays, but which is aware o f all that is happening, has happened, or w i l l happened, i n the scene described and elsewhere. Thus, Chafe notes that this mode normally uses the third person, can be in any tense, and includes no deictic indicators. M a n y o f Whitman's catalogues fit this description. One could argue that he works from generic recollections o f his own experiences, generalizing them and rendering them as types o f humanity. For instance, in section fifteen o f "Song o f M y s e l f ' he describes:  The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,  -74-  Chapter II ( H e w i l l never sleep any m o r e as he d i d i n the cot i n his mother's b e d room;) T h e j o u r printer w i t h gray h e a d a n d gaunt j a w s w o r k s at his case, H e turns his q u i d o f tobacco w h i l e his eyes blurr w i t h the manuscript; T h e m a l f o r m ' d l i m b s are tied to the surgeon's table, W h a t is r e m o v e d drops h o r r i b l y i n a p a i l ; T h e q u a d r o o n g i r l is s o l d at the auction-stand, the d r u n k a r d nods b y the b a r - r o o m stove. (273-9)  Whitman  biographies  typically  point  to  his  close  relationship  with  his  mentally  h a n d i c a p p e d brother E d d y , n o t i n g that he was eventually institutionalized. In h i s w o r k as a printer, W h i t m a n w o u l d p r o b a b l y h a v e encountered at least one g r a y - h a i r e d , t o b a c c o c h e w i n g typesetter. T h r o u g h o u t his w o r k i n the hospitals  d u r i n g the war, W h i t m a n  described the frequent h o r r i f i c amputations. In his travels to N e w O r l e a n s p r i o r to the war, he saw at first-hand the a u c t i o n i n g o f b l a c k slaves. F i n a l l y , h a v i n g i n s o m e w a y s b e g u n as a temperance writer, it is safe to assume W h i t m a n also witnessed the ordeals o f a l c o h o l i s m . Y e t although these m a y b e types o f people, f a m i l i a r to the author t h r o u g h his o w n life experience,  this passage goes b e y o n d s i m p l y c a t a l o g u i n g them. T h e speaker  does not tell us he k n o w s o f all these h u m a n t y p e s — h e s i m p l y tells us what each is d o i n g , i n the present tense, as t h o u g h he narrates all that passes i n the city i n one m o m e n t , as it happens. B u t this narrator is also truly o m n i s c i e n t — l a t e r i n the same section h e tells us things that W h i t m a n does not k n o w f r o m his life experience:  -75-  Chapter II O f f on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole i n the frozen surface, The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe, Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or pecan-trees, Coon-seekers go through the regions o f the Red river or through those drain'd b y the Tennessee, or through those o f the Arkansas, Torches shine i n the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or Altamahaw, Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons around them, In walls o f adobie, i n canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport, The city sleeps and the country sleeps, The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time, The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps b y his wife, A n d these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, A n d such as it is to be o f these more or less I am, A n d o f these one and all I weave the song o f myself. ( S M 317-29)  The speaker is omniscient and omnipresent, and sees all that passes across his nation, seemingly at any given moment. The omniscient narrator has traditionally been described as a narrator with God-like vision and understanding. But here, the speaker makes a very  -76-  Chapter II sudden shift in his apparently third-person narration, inserting himself in the immediate mode at the root o f this all-seeing perception, making it clear that although his openly acknowledged consciousness cannot be situated, it is ever-present and ever-watching, and is responsible for voicing these things he somehow observes and knows. In brief, he aligns his voice explicitly with the omniscient and omnipresent characteristics commonly associated with G o d , thus confirming his divine role on a linguistic level. However, when we consider what the speaker is able to achieve from his privileged position, it becomes clear that his aim is not simply to glorify himself, but to invite readers to open their eyes to their own divinity, and their own ability to interpret between the spiritual and material worlds, as the speaker does. In section two o f "Song o f Myself," the speaker invites his readers:  Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin o f all poems, Y o u shall possess the good o f the earth and sun, (there are millions o f suns left,) Y o u shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes o f the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, Y o u shall not look through m y eyes either, nor take things from me, Y o u shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self. (33-37)  The speaker uses the temporal reference, "this day and night," to create a sense o f copresence and convey the immediacy o f his request: readers should stop what he  -77-  Chapter II supposes they have been doing—relying on history, "the eyes o f the dead," on ideology, "the spectres in books," and on teachers (including himself), for answers about the things around them. Instead, readers should begin learning to perceive the world through our own eyes. What the speaker proposes here is, in some ways, a break with what he considers antiquated ways o f understanding the world. This deixis o f this direct address to the reader creates a gap: the "I" and "you" o f this discourse involve the speaker and reader directly and make them impossible to situate temporally or spatially. The speaker's command to "stop" places an emphasis on the reader's present moment, "this day and night," which seems to be shared by the speaker, as he insists we stop with h i m . Moreover, the repeated use o f the grammatical subject "you" i n these lines, i n contrast with the primarily first-person perspective o f the previous line, places a heavy emphasis on this passage as marking a new starting point for the grammatical-reader-subject, consistent with the beginning o f the process proposed. Grammatically, this passage marks a turning point, where the speaker leaves off talking about himself and his vision, and places the reader at the centre o f this imaginative process, able to "listen to all sides and filter them from your self." According to Chafe, the use o f the second person pronoun aligns the self o f the representing consciousness with the extroverted self o f the reader— he begins to represent our anticipated experiences. Thus, even as the reader is invited on this journey, Whitman has already made the grammatical shift o f pronoun to mark the new starting point (our experiences). This new starting point indicates that the process o f shifting to a reader-centred model has already begun grammatically, i f not lexically and cognitively. O f course, the expectation is that at the end o f the process, the reader w i l l also be ready to sing poetic chants and take on the qualities o f divine breath.  -78-  Chapter II The process begins with the letting go o f the traditional lenses through which we interpret the world, its history, ideology, or the philosophies o f individual teachers. A s noted earlier o f "Starting from Paumanok," the speaker believes we can learn from the past, but that we must ultimately release it and rely on the truths before our own eyes. Moreover, i f we consider an earlier observation in this chapter, that for Whitman "the metaphysical is a radically different way o f experiencing the physical" (Irwin 865), it is evident that the speaker is urging readers to look for these spiritual truths i n the physical world. The speaker's conception o f perfection within the cosmic order allows him to equate all elements o f the natural order. Similar to his translation o f death and evil into more positive forms, he translates the mundane into the divine:  I believe a leaf o f grass is no less than the journey-work o f the stars, A n d the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain o f sand, and the egg o f the wren, A n d the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest, A n d the running blackberry would adorn the parlors o f heaven, A n d the narrowest hinge in m y hand puts to scorn all machinery, A n d the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue, A n d a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions o f infidels. ( S M 663669)  The miraculous becomes the common denominator i n the speaker's evaluation o f the universe. He begins with the familiar, linking everyday sights to the perfect work o f  -79-  Chapter II divine creation. Through a synecdochical process o f equating a small part o f the natural order to the whole o f the natural world, these small elements accumulate as embodiments o f divine w i l l . Moreover, the repeated "And the" in each line constitutes one example o f Whitman's frequent use o f syntactic parallelism, which like the cohesive conjunction "or," allows h i m to develop a system o f alternatives or substitutions. The tree-toad and mouse become interchangeable, illustrating the underlying implication that any part o f the natural world could be substituted for any other part, all having equal claim to the perfection o f the whole. A s I observed earlier in m y discussion o f the speaker's metaphorical redefinition o f certain symbols i n Leaves of Grass, the lexical role cohesion plays influences the reader's cognitive ability to understand the structure o f the universe as Whitman portrays it. In understanding how any part can become symbolic o f the whole, it becomes easier to work backward from the conclusion that nature is the product of the divine creation to the understanding that every individual aspect o f nature has an equal and interchangeable importance in the scheme o f the cosmos. The individual person—any individual person—is also able to claim central importance i n the scheme o f the cosmos, because Whitman has rendered it inherently democratic through the cohesive patterns o f development he employs. To return to section two o f the poem, Walt's initial purpose was to teach readers to see the world through their own eyes and experience, setting them on a path toward the discovery o f their own divine natures, toward their own ability to create, and thus toward the "origin o f all poems" ( S M 33). The speaker's end objective is to "fetch you whoever you are flush with m y s e l f ( S M 1085). But to catch up with our guide, readers must surpass the teacher: "I am the teacher o f athletes, / H e that by me spreads a wider breast  -80-  Chapter II than m y own proves the width o f m y own, / H e most honors m y style who learns under it to destroy the teacher" ( S M 1234-1236). For readers, the process ends with our projected initiation into divinity—a result deemed within the reach o f every individual who chooses to pursue it. L i k e the democracy o f the United States, spiritual development is also inherently egalitarian. The speaker asks, "Have you outstript the rest? A r e you the President? / It is a trifle....they w i l l more than arrive there every one, and still pass on" ( S M 431-2). W h i l e any citizen can become the president, the speaker insists that every citizen can learn to see the world through their own eyes, developing the spiritual and divine aspects o f themselves. In the end, he envisions us all returning to the democratic equality o f the cosmos through death. H e provides the example o f this merger with an eternal cosmic life cycle when he stages his own death at the end o f "Song o f Myself." However, his transformation into dirt and new life in grass allows the speaker to fade out o f the equation, translated into different forms, giving the reader room and responsibility to explore his own divine self.  -81-  Chapter I I I CHAPTER III - INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS  Having drawn some conclusions i n Chapter II about the speaker as a quasidivine leader, urging readers toward a realization o f their own divinity, this chapter considers his relationship to other individuals, including both the other characters he encounters within the text o f Leaves of Grass, and the extra-textual relationship he frames between himself and the reader. The poems analysed here, "The Sleepers," "I Sing the B o d y Electric," and "Whoever Y o u A r e H o l d i n g M e N o w i n Hand," all portray intimate contact and relations between the speaker and his many lovers. I w i l l examine these instances o f bodily love and contact, which have made some o f these poems (in)famous over the years. K e y themes considered i n this chapter include the speaker's identification o f his self with others, the continuing disembodiment o f the speaker, the role physical relations play i n the development o f the soul, and how the stylistics o f disembodiment in this verse serves to balance the carnal with the spiritual. M y argument i n this chapter is that each o f these poems approaches carnality as a platonic tool i n learning to love deeply, not necessarily physically. W h i t m a n uses the platonic model to demonstrate that the body is an avenue to the soul, and to translate love between bodies into divine love between souls.  3.1  (DlS)EMBODIED B O D I E S I N C O N T A C T  In the Criterion  o f November 10, 1855—five months after the publication o f  Whitman's Leaves of Grass—Rufus  W . Griswold wrote o f the volume o f poetry, "There  was a time when licentiousness laughed at reproval; now it writes essays and delivers  -82-  Chapter III lectures. Once it shunned the light; now it courts attention, writes books showing how grand and pure it is, and prophesies from its lecherous lips its own ultimate triumph" (24). There was some controversy to the reception o f Leaves of Grass, and while Ralph Waldo Emerson greeted Whitman "at the beginning o f a great career" (Emerson 637), Griswold's comments are characteristic o f the negative criticism the work received. Certainly it was not unwarranted. In an age o f gender-specific conduct manuals, long sleeves and skirts, and high collars, Whitman's verse broke not only poetic conventions o f rhyme and metre, but also social and moral conventions related to the discussion o f sex and the body. For instance, Whitman writes o f prostitutes and onanists, and even describes the sexual act: "Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching, / Limitless limpid jets o f love hot and enormous, quivering jelly o f love, white-blow and delirious juice, 7 Bridegroom night o f love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn" ( B E 59-61). Such passages shocked his audience i n a time when:  In the name o f health and public order the body was banished from polite society, and its external shape and structure was denied. B y 1855, when Whitman presented himself coatless and bare-necked, his pelvis thrust forward, i n his Leaves of Grass frontispiece, men o f fashion were dressed from head to toe like black tubes. Women o f fashion looked like tea cosies, j a m pots, and other gently rounded objects o f manufacture. Their breasts, buttocks and legs were hidden by nearly one hundred yards o f gown, petticoat and underclothing. (Kaplan 147)  -83-  Chapter III  W i t h i n this historical context, Whitman's recognition and championing o f this erotic attraction o f flesh for flesh was a challenge to the recognized social order. Rather than upholding the view that sexuality was inherently evil, Whitman openly discusses sexuality and its personal, social, and political functions. Not surprisingly, Whitman's poetry is now a favourite subject among psychoanalytic critics and queer theorists. Moreover, biographers are i n general agreement that Whitman was most likely o f homosexual orientation (though no definitive proof has yet been found o f sexual encounters between Whitman and other men). Critical discussion o f his highly eroticized, often homoerotic poems, some o f which are examined in this chapter, often leans toward a very personal discussion o f the biographical correspondences between the poet and his speaker. The  poems  analysed  in this  chapter  have  all been  selected  for  their  representations o f the speaker interacting with other acknowledged bodies, and for their frank discussion o f the body and bodily interactions. Despite the conventions o f polite society o f Whitman's time, these interactions are often eroticized and frequently involve bodies i n varying states o f undress. The three poems selected, "The Sleepers," "I Sing the B o d y Electric," and "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w i n Hand," have been interpreted in recent years as expressive o f different kinds o f politically motivated sexual interactions. "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the Body Electric" have frequently been discussed in terms o f their egalitarian portrayals o f the human body. Meanwhile, as part o f the Calamus cluster, "Whoever Y o u A r e H o l d i n g M e N o w i n Hand" has been described as a poem that exemplifies Whitman's coyness about his homosexuality.  -84-  Chapter III These generalizations about readings o f these poems in relation to notions about bodies may seem counterintuitive, following Chapter II, which focused on the disembodiment of the speaker. Indeed, several critics have remarked on the elusiveness o f the speaker, and have struggled to reconcile this with traditional understandings o f interacting bodies. In this chapter, I w i l l attempt this reconciliation through m y own analysis o f consciousness and cohesion within the framework o f Whitman's larger spiritual project. Although the eroticization o f the body varies i n terms o f the kinds o f interactions portrayed, I w i l l argue in the remainder o f this chapter that all o f these eroticized interactions work toward the spiritualization o f the body and its identification with the soul, and toward the spiritualization o f love. This progression begins with the speaker, who  continues to de-situate and disembody himself through his use o f imagery and  displacement o f consciousness; by avoiding being situated i n the physical, material world, the speaker presumes to guarantee his corresponding continuing access to the spiritual realm. H i s elusiveness i n turn must play into the interpretation o f interacting bodies as moving between the carnal and spiritual realms. These translations—body into soul and carnal love into spiritual love—follow a development similar to that described by Plato i n The Symposium.  However, this process o f translation is best  understood through the speaker's use o f cohesive elements to build spiritual meaning upon the foundations o f the physical world. Finally, I w i l l examine how, i n these poems, the unconventional uses o f immediacy and ideas regarding audience design place the onus upon the reader to adopt or abandon the project o f spiritual development.  -85-  Chapter III 3.2 P L A C E L E S S N E S S A N D T H E P L A T O N I C E R O T I C :  " T H E S L E E P E R S " A N D "I S L N G T H E  BODY ELECTRIC"  In this section, I w i l l turn m y attention to the speaker's relationship to other individuals, specifically to the other characters he encounters within the text o f Leaves of Grass. These relationships are portrayed in "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the B o d y Electric." "The Sleepers" is a profound observation o f the common humanity between all classes, races, and nations—Whitman brings these together in a shared sleep and dream sequence in the darkness o f a motherly night. The poem links sexuality, the mediation between the individual and the nation, and the mystical experience o f death and rebirth i n sleep and waking. The crossover between waking and sleeping, between the physical world and the spiritual world, and how the speaker situates himself within both, are o f key  interest in this analysis, especially with regard to how this influences our  understanding o f the other two o f the poem's aspects; sexuality, and the mediation between individual and nation. Meanwhile, "I Sing the B o d y Electric" has been identified as a poem that works with and around doubts about the sanctity o f the body, doubts that stem from the Christian belief in a corrupted body that, through its desires, passions, and urges, also corrupts the soul. Huck Gutman has considered the process, in this poem, by which Whitman asks readers to think about the body and its perfection, its sexuality and its place i n a political and cosmological scheme. Ultimately, he concludes that the poem's ulterior motive is to render all bodies electric and attractive, and to legitimate the poet's homoerotic desires (Gutman 296-8). In these poems, the intimate contact and love between the speaker and his many lovers is paradoxically characterized primarily by the continuing disembodiment o f the  -86-  Chapter III speaker. This leads me to believe that the love between the speaker and the other figures he encounters in his poems does not satisfy any physical need, nor does it satisfy an emotional need, as the elusive speaker sometimes moves rapidly between lovers, or away from them entirely. Rather, like the spirit Eros i n Plato's Symposium, the erotic serves a philosophical or spiritual end for Whitman's speaker. Once again in these poems we find the speaker difficult to locate. H e continues to shift locations frequently, sometimes shifting between genders and bodies, rendering his very identity unstable. This is because, as Bradley J. Stiles points out, Whitman situates identity within the body— individuation is accomplished through the physical body, which is formed from a solution o f spirit. Stiles also notes, "The identity we gain by our body goes through a birth, death, and regeneration that seem to spiritualize the material world" (Stiles 35), which suggests that identity can never firmly be fixed except in the body, and that it is otherwise a more fluid concept. Moreover, i n "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the B o d y Electric," Whitman continues to use imagery that makes the situation o f the poet between locations, or in generalized spiritual sites, even more explicit than it was i n "Starting from Paumanok" or "Song o f Myself." A brief survey o f the mentions o f characters engaged i n any kind o f love act or intimate physical contact, or o f those acts themselves, reveals that in both "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the Body Electric," all o f the sites for this kind o f contact are locations which most Whitman scholars typically identify as connected to the spiritual realm, or which they associate, in the case o f activities, with these sites or the other spiritual activities that take place i n them. For instance, o f the onanists with their "sick-gray faces," the speaker insists, "The night pervades them and infolds them" (TS 8-10), as it does "The married  -87-  Chapter III couple [who] sleep calmly in their bed, he with his palm on the hip o f the wife, and she with her palm on the hip o f the husband" (TS 11). The night and its darkness are acknowledged by many scholars as spiritualized by Whitman, a time and condition when the secrets o f the cosmos—planets and stars—are revealed, having been hidden by daylight. In many o f Whitman's poems, darkness is also associated with a heightened acuity o f hearing, lending increased importance to the voice and to poetic song. Thus, the speaker indicates, "Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear, / The earth recedes from me into the night, /1 saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is beautiful" (TS 26-8). The darkness reveals the beauty hidden by the day, both on earth— the material world—and beyond the earth—the spiritual world. However, this passage also marks the movement away from the material world and into the realm o f the imagination, for in the next lines, the speaker reveals, "I go from bedside to bedside, I sleep close with the other sleepers each i n turn, / I dream in m y dream all the dreams o f the other dreamers, / A n d I become the other dreamers" (TS 29-31). This is significant, as the visions o f bodies that follow, and the accounts o f their interactions, emerge from the speaker's dream-state. If anything, the interactions o f "The Sleepers" are a contact o f imaginations, not of bodies. Indeed, in "The Sleepers" and in "I Sing the B o d y Electric," both the speaker and the bodies he describes are rendered immaterial through their spiritualization, as opposed to material and earthbound. This often takes place through association with the sea.  Whitman adapts the structure o f aquatic symbolism to fit diverse thematic contexts and he invests it with a number o f related meanings. However,  -88-  Chapter III despite this surface multiplicity, an analysis o f the essential form and import o f this symbolism reveals it to be consistent with the usage o f aquatic symbolism in various religious systems: the waters are associated with purification and renewal and with a spiritual matrix or divinity that precedes the creation and takes it back to itself. A n awareness o f the transhistorical structure and meaning o f aquatic symbolism can serve a heuristic purpose in interpreting Whitman's usage; however, it is always necessary to supplement an archetypal reading with the specific nuances o f Whitman's text. (Kuebrich, "Sea, The" 622)  L i k e the river i n many Christian sects, the sea can baptize the body, washing corruption from it and from the soul. For Whitman, the sea also symbolizes the divine solution from which all souls emerge when they are granted identity through embodiment, as noted earlier. Contact with water, especially the sea, becomes a means to symbolically access the spiritual realm, and the shoreline thus comes to represent a point o f transition between the material and spiritual worlds. This is evident in many o f Whitman's poems, where the shoreline becomes a site o f enlightenment. For instance, i n "Song o f Myself," the speaker explains his sense o f integration into the cosmic scheme: "Sea o f the brine o f life and o f unshovell'd yet always-ready graves, / Howler and scooper o f storms, capricious and dainty sea, / 1 am integral with you, I too am o f one phase and o f all phases" (456-8). The sea is powerful; it both gives and takes life, but remains at the symbolic core o f the cosmos. But aquatic symbolism has other functions as well. For instance, sea imagery allows the speaker and other bodies to become fluid, like the water:  -89-  Chapter III  I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough, To stop i n company with the rest at evening is enough, To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough, To pass among them or touch any one, or rest m y arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as i n a sea. (BE  45-8)  In these lines the speaker illustrates companionship as a proximity to the flesh or bodies of others, characterizing the flesh with noble qualities: natural beauty, intellectual merit, life, joy—these are the qualities those o f his era, particularly the transcendental thinkers, would have connected to the miraculous nature o f God's creation. These are not the worldly qualities that, for most other sects i n the nineteenth century, aligned the body with corruption, making it the sign for the corrupted human soul. L i k e an animal, the body needed feeding, and craved a mate; it was base in its instincts and needed clothing to hide the original sin. Here the speaker imagines passing among bodies, coming into contact with some o f them. However, this contact is once again an imaginative act on the part o f the speaker. H e does not commit to touching any one body—the conjunction "or" again supplies alternative after alternative; he w i l l "pass among" bodies, not necessarily in contact, or he w i l l "touch any one," or he w i l l momentarily rest his arm upon a male or a female neck (BE 47). He fails to commit to one or another possibility, revealing his apparent promiscuity as mere illusion. Moreover, this elusive contact takes place  -90-  Chapter III primarily i n the speaker's imagination. Although it is unclear whether the mode he is using is displaced or displaced immediacy, it is evident that this is a remembered or imagined memory from his use o f the present-perfect-tense i n "I have perceiv'd" ( B E 45). His extroverted consciousness—the part o f h i m that does the contacting and touching—is somewhat displaced from the introverted consciousness that produces language. H i s perception originated in the past, and though he may still believe it valid, it is reflective i n nature. A t best, he offers us a series o f true, though vague memories o f times spent with others, yet the uncertainty o f the alternatives he offers reveals that this memory is more likely an imagined state than a specific recollection. However, the speaker shifts to the immediate mode as he perceives or remembers the delight o f this imaginative contact, the pleasure o f touch. The experience o f it is not imagined as a base desire, but as a pleasure that washes over the speaker like the sea in a baptism o f sorts; the imaginative contact fulfils a desire more spiritual than carnal. The transformation o f the body into a purified spiritual vessel has been the speaker's aim since the start o f "I Sing the B o d y Electric," where he reveals that his task is to "discorrupt" physical bodies, "and charge them full with the charge o f the soul" (4). The origin o f the body's corruption remains unclear; we cannot know whether the speaker believes the body is corrupt because it is o f the postlapsarian material world, or whether the body has acquired corruption as it passes through the material world, interpreting and understanding it i n a limited way, unconcerned with the life o f the soul. In either case, the speaker attempts to "discorrupt" the body not only by associating bodily interaction with spiritualized sites, but also by avoiding any actual bodily contact by imagining the bodies concerned and by maintaining the disembodiment o f his own voice.  -91-  Chapter III Once again, the disembodiment o f the speaker is conscious and deliberate. H e describes himself in "The Sleepers;" "I am the ever-laughing—it is new moon and twilight, /1 see the hiding o f douceurs, I see nimble ghosts whichever way I look, / Cache and cache again deep i n the ground and sea, and where it is neither ground nor sea" (335). The speaker here is playful and elusive—he passes through the darkness o f twilight and new moon, the position o f the lunar cycle opposite the full moon and characterized chiefly by the moon's absence from the sky. Despite the darkness, his superhuman vision allows h i m to see the hiding o f douceurs—a borrowed French term for sweets or bribes— and to see ghosts, not the shapes o f people's bodies but their very spirits. This combination o f darkness, vision, and spirits suggests there is something otherworldly to the sweets or delights being hidden here. Moreover, the speaker explains that they are hidden in the ground and i n the sea, "and where it is neither ground nor sea" (TS 35). If neither ground nor sea, perhaps air? This would place these hidden delights in the realm o f the spiritually charged atmosphere explored in Chapter II. Or, "neither ground nor sea" could refer to the shoreline or swamp, places where the sands and waters merge, border zones where the spiritual realm comes in contact with the physical world. It seems likely that these douceurs are the hidden delights o f a spiritual world, hidden i n both material and spiritual realms, tucked away in the in-between places for the poet to discover, to see even in complete darkness. Indeed, in this poem about sleepers, it seems that dreams and the unconscious experience are another way into an understanding o f the spiritual world. Hutchinson has suggested that i n this poem the speaker merges his consciousness with other sleepers and moves into a trance-like state that brings h i m i n contact with the spiritual world.  -92-  Chapter III The fluidity o f the speaker's consciousness, his movements through placeless locations, and his tendency toward disembodiment are complicated by his ambiguous relationship toward his own agency, especially with regard to his interactions with other bodies. Until now, we have considered the speaker as an authoritative agent i n his o w n song. H e is the author o f many actions, and as such, takes responsibility for them: he is the producer o f his song, he is the seer and interpreter o f the spiritual and material worlds. He has cast himself as a guide, a teacher, a leader, and urges readers forward along their own paths. However, when he comes to describing interactions o f bodies, especially i n sexual contact, his agency tends to disappear fairly consistently. Indeed, i n some o f the most vivid, sexually charged passages, all agency is erased from the poetry. For instance:  This is the female form, A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot, It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, I am drawn by its breath as i f I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it, Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected o f heaven or fear'd o f hell, are now consumed, M a d filaments, ungovernable shoots play out o f it, the response likewise ungovernable, Hair, bosom, hips, bend o f legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused,  -93-  Chapter III Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching, Limitless limpid jets o f love hot and enormous, quivering jelly o f love, white-blow and delirious juice, Bridegroom night o f love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn, Undulating into the willing and yielding day, Lost i n the cleave o f the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day. ( B E 52-63)  I cite the entire passage here because it makes evident the topic—the attraction o f the speaker to the form o f woman—as well as the gradual elimination o f the speaker's agency. It is significant that he writes o f "the female form," an abstract concept, not any one woman or lover i n particular. H e also spiritualizes this attraction through the collocation o f the draw, or magnetic pull o f woman with breath and vapour—familiar spiritual air imagery. A t first, he admits he is at the centre o f this action—he is drawn, he is pulled into an immediate contact, not with the female form or body, but with the attraction o f it, where all else falls aside. Gradually, he retreats from responsibility for actions occurring, especially i n the final lines o f the passage. Readers lose all pronouns; hair, bosom, hips, legs, and hands no longer belong to anyone, they are "diffused," a word that regularly appears throughout Leaves of Grass to indicate the breakdown o f matter, whether its separation from the spiritual solution o f the universe, or from other matter. Consider for instance, the lines, "It is not to diffuse you that you were born o f your mother and father, it is to identify you" ("To Think o f Time" 72); or "Nature and  -94-  Chapter III M a n shall be disjoin'd and diffused no more" ("Passage to India" 114). Both o f these examples use "diffuse" in such a way that it distinguishes one material element from another. Thus, the last indication o f any sense o f self presented to the reader is when the speaker refers to his body parts, "mine," as also diffused; they are scattered, separate from him. After this point, there are no indicators o f agency—an anonymous ebb and flow interact, phallic love-flesh swells and aches without any indication o f to whom it may belong, jets, jelly, and juice o f love appear from no obvious source. W h i l e we might assume the speaker participates i n this sexual act, he quickly shakes us off his trail. Rather, as it takes place during a "Bridegroom night o f love," the night itself becomes the agent, the party responsible for "working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn" ( B E 61). Thus, the exchange is naturalized, involving the interaction o f cosmic elements, night and day, not people, and certainly not the speaker. This is, o f course, a metaphor for the poet's activity in these poems: just as the (spiritual) night works love and its spirituality into the (material) day, the poet's discussion o f the body and sexuality works to spiritualize aspects o f the human self that had been considered exclusively physical and therefore base. Michael M o o n has also persuasively argued o f a similar passage, section eleven from "Song o f M y s e l f (the "Twenty-Ninth Bather"), that the removal o f any pronouns or indicators o f agency allowed Whitman to publish his sexually explicit, censorable poetry. This removal o f indications o f agency renders the action indefinable and therefore just barely permissible for public consumption. Moreover, M o o n also suggests that the removal o f indicators o f agency renders the speaker's identity fluid, allowing it to shift between bodies. Both o f these claims can be applied just as easily to this passage from "I Sing the B o d y Electric." The explicit sexual act is tempered by the  -95-  Chapter III lack o f agency, and thus o f bodies, and it does seem that the speaker's body is diffused into the very night and day o f which he speaks. The fluidity o f identity M o o n remarks upon is also manifested i n other ways, as when the speaker takes on the identities o f others, either by appropriating their work or their bodies. For instance, i n section two o f "I Sing the Body Electric," Whitman catalogues the beauties o f the bodies o f people engaged in their daily activities; swimmers, rowers, wrestlers, men marching, women soothing children, and so on. The speaker takes on these identities as he takes on their activities: "I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's breast with the little child, / S w i m with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march i n line with the firemen" ( B E 31-2). It seems as though the speaker merely joins the groups he speaks of, the firemen and wrestlers, for example, by taking up the activities that occupy the people i n these groups. However, his loosened self, at the mother's breast with the child, reveals a more profound identification with individuals through their occupations. The intimacy o f contact with the mother suggests that the speaker is not simply taking on the child's activity o f nursing i n order to better understand or relate to the group "children," but rather, the speaker merges with the child, not appropriating the child's identity for himself, but allowing the child to direct his own fluid, loosened self. The same can be said o f the swimmers, wrestlers, and firemen; when the speaker merges his identity with them, he sees the world as they do, rather than imposing his vision upon them. In a similar fashion, Whitman's speaker merges his identity with other characters in his poems b y becoming them, adopting their points o f view. He shifts easily between bodies and identities, changing social position, gender, and age. For instance, he writes:  -96-  Chapter III  I am she who adorn'd herself and folded her hair expectantly, M y truant lover has come, and it is dark.  Double yourself and receive me darkness, Receive me and my lover too, he w i l l not let me go without him.  I roll myself upon you as upon a bed, I resign myself to the dusk. [...] Darkness, you are gentler than m y lover, his flesh was sweaty and panting, I feel the hot moisture yet that he left me.  [...] B e careful darkness! already what was it touch'd me? I thought m y lover had gone, else darkness and he are one, I hear the heart-beat, I follow, I fade away. (TS 46-59)  Here the speaker takes on the body and identity o f a woman. The first line introduces this transformation, complementing the present tense, "I am she" with her history as a woman awaiting her lover. Once again, the love act takes place i n an envelope o f (spiritual) darkness, and there is a slippage between the lover and the darkness itself as lover. Initially, the woman invites the darkness to enfold her and her lover, and i n darkness the human coitus takes place, followed by the gentler love o f the darkness. B y the end, feeling a touch, the speaker as woman can no longer determine whether her lover and the  -97-  Chapter III darkness are distinct entities, or whether they have merged body and spirit to become one. The heart-beat reassures her that the human body is still there, though now endowed with the spiritual nature o f the darkness, and she follows its sound. The end o f the line, "I fade away," marks the end o f this section o f the poem, and the end o f the speaker's time with this identity; he moves away from embodiment and toward other identities. Thus far, I have characterized the general tendency o f Whitman's speaker toward disembodiment, dislocation and unstable identities as manifestations o f an attempt to spiritualize the human body. However, while these rhetorical moves on the speaker's part accumulate to give readers a general sense o f the inherently spiritual nature o f the body and o f bodily interactions, a brief consideration o f the underlying structure o f these rhetorical moves reveals the consistency and coherence o f Whitman's worldview regarding the place o f the physical within a plan o f spiritual development. However, when Whitman describes the feminine figure, we may be reminded o f Griswold's criticism, that i n Whitman's poetry licentiousness shows "how grand and pure it is, and prophesies from its lecherous lips its own ultimate triumph" (24). For instance, when Whitman writes, "Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman, / The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings" ( B E 151-2), he is certainly not interested in the hundreds o f yards o f fabric normally hiding that body from public eyes, nor is he interested i n the common denial o f the existence o f female sexuality outside o f reproductive functions. But Whitman provides reasoning for his frank discussion o f the body: " A n d i f the body does not do fully as much as the soul? / A n d i f the body were not the soul, what is the soul?" ( B E 7-8).  There is more at stake here than social mores; rather, Whitman is  -98-  Chapter III making yet another attempt here to link body and soul, to set them upon equivalent grounds and move his readers from a celebration o f the body to a celebration o f the divinity o f the human being, both body and soul. Although Whitman's treatment o f the erotic, his championing o f the body and its pleasures, may have shocked nineteenthcentury Americans, it is not unprecedented in the western canon. Because it has a parallel structure to Whitman's development o f the function o f the erotic in his poems, Plato's Symposium can be used as an interpretive framework for the poetry. Moreover, Whitman's exposure to platonic thought is likely to have contributed to his thought on this development, as it is manifested i n other areas o f his biography, like his approach to teaching, discussed in Chapter I. The dialogue recounts how Socrates and his friends met for a drinking party and each made a speech in praise o f Eros, the god o f love. According to the argument Socrates presents, framed through a reported conversation between himself and Diotima, his guide in love, Eros is neither a god nor a human, but is a spirit who serves to interpret and carry messages between the gods and humans, much like the poet who interprets the physical and spiritual realms for his readers by positioning himself between them. Socrates specifies that the object o f love is reproduction, "Because reproduction is the closest mortals can come to being permanently alive and immortal. If what we agreed earlier is right, that the object o f love is to have the good always, it follows from this argument that the object o f love must be immortality  as  well"  (Symposium  44,  206e-207a).  According  to  Socrates,  the  philosophical mind also seeks to become immortal by reproducing itself. H e explains that this is why wise men take younger male lovers; the erotic becomes a tool for education, a reason to spend time together, in contact and i n conversation. Thus, Eros works on a  -99-  Chapter III physical level to urge the undeveloped mind to the contemplation o f the Form o f Beauty, where a young learner should begin with the physical love o f one mentor, and:  [SJhould go from one to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from practices to beautiful forms o f learning. From forms o f learning, he should end up at that form o f learning which is o f nothing other than that beauty itself, so that he can complete the process o f learning what beauty really is. (Symposium 49, 21 lb-c)  W e can see this progression at work when Whitman's speaker describes a wellloved farmer, "the father o f five sons, / A n d i n them the fathers o f sons, and i n them the fathers o f sons" ( B E 33-4), who is loved by all, including his children, "with personal love" ( B E 40). The speaker begins here with the notions o f reproduction and immortality, but goes on to spiritualize the physical aspect o f love. H e indicates the natural attraction o f all to the farmer: " Y o u would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit by h i m i n the boat that you and he might touch each other" ( B E 44). Here the farmer is someone we want to touch, someone like the wise man Plato describes who passes understanding on to his younger lovers. However, it is no accident that we find this farmer in his boat. Earlier i n this chapter, and in Chapter II, I discussed the symbolism o f land and water in Whitman's poetry, identifying the water as a fundamentally spiritual medium. Although the man i n this passage is described as a farmer, hunter, and fisher, the place Whitman chooses to situate him at last is i n a boat on the water—in a vessel  - 100-  Chapter III (like the body) made for travelling in the waters o f the spiritual realm. The lexical association between the touch we might share with this wise farmer and the sea journey we embark upon with him make it clear that what we stand to gain from this touch is the development o f our soul. W e have already considered several other instances o f the collocation between bodily contact and the sea earlier in this chapter. This collocation appears again i n the very next section o f the poem, when the speaker discusses the nature o f touching others: "To pass among them or touch any one, or rest m y arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? / I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as i n a sea" ( B E 47-8). A s mentioned earlier in this chapter, bodies and the delight o f physical contact are spiritualized through this mention o f swimming and the sea, activities mentioned elsewhere in Whitman's poetry in connection with  the  immersion o f the soul in the water, a sort o f developmental baptism and purification, and also on occasion, as i n "The Sleepers," in connection with the passage to death (70-89), that great new adventure for the soul. What is important to note here, is that just as Socrates recommends a progression from loving one beautiful body to loving many beautiful bodies, Whitman moves from the love o f the wise old farmer to passing through a crowd o f loving bodies, caressing each briefly but affectionately. A t this juncture, it is significant to turn back to the key themes o f each o f these poems, to illustrate the leap from loving many bodies to loving an ideal o f beauty, as Socrates encourages i n The Symposium.  In brief, in "The Sleepers," although Whitman's speaker engages with  individuals, he does so only imaginatively, not physically. Despite the uses o f the immediate and the historical present modes o f language throughout the poem, the "The Sleepers" portrays a world o f dreams and imagination, not one o f waking life and actual  -101-  Chapter III physical contact. A n d despite the occasions o f individual love and contact in "I Sing the B o d y Electric," the speaker is primarily drawn to the female form and to the male form— not to specific bodies but to the idea o f these bodies. A s mentioned in Chapter I, Whitman had studied Plato i n the years prior to turning to poetry, thus it is not coincidental that the familiar language o f Platonic "Forms" emerges here. What is important to remember  about this Platonic progression is that the final step, the  appreciation o f the F o r m o f Beauty, is accompanied by abstinence from physical love. Therefore, contrary to popular readings that see Whitman's speaker as engaged i n physical passions, these observations lead us toward an understanding o f these poems as representing  an erotic passion that becomes  increasingly disconnected  from  the  interaction o f physical bodies. Moreover, as I shall illustrate i n the following section, Whitman portrays his speaker as an incarnation o f the archetypes o f Eros and Socrates, both elusive lover and elusive teacher, urging readers toward an appreciation o f the Form o f Beauty. Whitman's speaker transforms things indecent into things divine by equating the body with the soul, and the physical world with the spiritual realm. This is particularly evident i n passages like, " A n d i f the body were not the soul, what is the soul?" ( B E 8). Moreover, holiness is also conferred upon the body through the association o f physical interactions with spiritual mediums like the night, the air and the water. Through these, the body is spiritualized and washed o f its base carnality:  The soul is always beautiful, it appears more or it appears less, it comes or it lags behind,  - 102-  Chapter III It comes from its embower'd garden and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world, Perfect and clean the genitals previously jetting, and perfect and clean the womb cohering, The head well-grown proportion'd and plumb, and the bowels and joints proportion'd and plumb. (TS 150-3)  W e see here an Adamic vision o f the world, with the soul emerging from a garden (Eden), and looking upon the physical body (genitals, womb, head, bowels, joints) as perfect and clean, in a prelapsarian vision o f the privileged human place in the cosmic scheme. However, this passage also reveals key characteristics o f the relationship portrayed b y Whitman's speaker, between the physical and spiritual realms, namely that they are one and the same. The passage is once again i n the third-person omniscient mode, an instance o f what Chafe would consider language without a representing consciousness, and while the speaker does not use the first-person to make explicit that these impressions belong to his all-knowing consciousness, it is evident that he must either perceive this for himself or infer it through some understanding o f the nature o f the soul. Despite the apparent absence o f a representing consciousness, the evidence suggests it cannot be completely eliminated from language production. Beyond the omniscient reporting o f events, someone must be responsible for the insight and depth o f perception conveyed here. Unlike objective third-person omniscient observation, these value judgments  are not impartial and must proceed from some unacknowledged, but  nevertheless present source. The soul he describes is beautiful, like the Platonic Form o f  -103-  Chapter III Beauty discussed here. Moreover, it is elusive; it appears more or less, it comes or lags behind. Once again, the use o f the conjunction "or" highlights that these are options available to the soul, and that it need not be committed to either. O f course, this means that the soul may be visible, physical, and present just as often as it may be invisible, ethereal, and intangible—states more commonly associated with the Christian notion o f the soul. A s noted i n Chapter II, the speaker shares this elusiveness with the soul; this can be seen as strengthening our understanding o f the speaker as having access to a spiritual realm. Finally, it is important to note that the speaker describes the soul as looking on itself, and then he names the aspects o f itself which it perceives: the genitals, womb, head, bowels, and joints. Here the soul recognizes itself as the body, but not simply the heart, mind, or strength, commonly privileged as noble human attributes. Rather, the soul finds its way into the genitals and bowels o f the human body—otherwise considered its least dignified aspects. However, a conceptual association might reveal that the soul is i n both the human reproductive processes (genitals and womb bringing forth life), and i n the human intellect (the well-grown head). This reading places humans in their righteous (plumb) place (proportioned) in the cosmic scheme. For Whitman's speaker, the soul cannot be separated from the body, but coexists with it constantly, each complementing the other. A s in Platonic philosophy, the world o f Forms is not one which we must await at the end o f a long journey, like Heaven comes after earth in Christianity; rather, it is a world that is ever present and only requires us to look at it in the correct way. The same is true here o f the soul and its relationship to the body, and o f the relationship between the physical and spiritual worlds. They are ever-present, and obvious to the discerning eye.  -104-  Chapter III 3.3  F R O M EROS TO SOCRATES TO WHITMAN'S SPEAKER: T H E FUNCTION OF T H E POET IN " W H O E V E R Y O U A R E H O L D I N G M E N O W I N H A N D "  For Whitman's speaker, as i n Platonic philosophy, the majority o f people w i l l not simply arrive at an understanding o f the reality and activity o f the spiritual world and o f the soul in their everyday lives—they require instruction. W i t h this, we come to the function o f the poet. Just as Eros is neither god nor human, but a messenger spirit carrying and interpreting messages between gods and humans, and just as Socrates argues that an older, wiser male lover leads his younger lovers to understand the progression from physical love o f an individual body to an intellectual and spiritual love for the Form of Beauty, the poet leads his reader from his representations o f physical love to a spiritual understanding o f the bonds between humans and the cosmos. Whitman's speaker most clearly articulates this function i n "Whoever Y o u A r e H o l d i n g M e N o w i n Hand," where he stages a physical interaction with his audience, rather than portraying himself interacting with other bodies, as i n "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the B o d y Electric." In this staged interaction with his reader, Whitman's speaker takes on the role o f the older, wiser lover, leading the readers on toward understanding, mirroring both the relationship Socrates has with his younger lover, Alcibiades, and the function Socrates ascribes to Eros i n communicating the messages o f the gods to humans. However, "Whoever Y o u Are Holding M e N o w in Hand" is a poem o f warning where the speaker commands readers to release him unless we are fully prepared for the consequences o f following him. M a n y critics read this warning as indicative o f Whitman's fears regarding the discovery o f his homosexuality, perhaps including the fear o f admitting it to himself. Meanwhile, other critics have identified as a key theme the problem o f distinguishing the  - 105-  Chapter III real from mere appearances,  as manifested in day-to-day living, in interpersonal  relationships, and in the identity o f the individual. This is closer to m y own view that the warning relates to the challenges o f following the speaker as he attempts to teach us to interpret the spiritual world for ourselves. To best understand the parallels between Whitman's connection to his reader and the platonic-erotic relationships in The Symposium,  one must identify some o f the  characteristics o f this lover/instructor who becomes intimately involved with his student and leads him to higher understanding o f the cosmos and his own soul. This lover/instructor is both aware o f his protege's reality, the physical world o f appearances, and another reality his student cannot see; i n Plato, this is the intelligible world o f Forms, and i n Whitman, it is the spiritual realm. The lover/instructor is able to relate to his protege, but fully places the burden o f learning upon the student—he can serve as an instructor, but only insofar as the student is w i l l i n g to take on the burden o f learning. Moreover, as noted in Chapter II, the task o f the instructor is twofold: on one hand, the instructor interprets or translates the intelligible/spiritual world to help his student, who is caught in the physical world o f appearances, to see beyond these confines; and on the other, the instructor remains i n many ways elusive, constantly a step ahead o f his student, leading him onward. The remainder o f this chapter w i l l focus on each o f these characteristics, identifying how each is represented in Plato's Symposium, and illustrating how it is manifested i n "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand." In his speech in The Symposium, Socrates describes Eros, one o f the many spirits, which, "Being intermediate between [gods and humans] fill the gap between them, and enable the universe to form an interconnected whole" (Symposium  - 106-  39, 202e). Socrates  Chapter III also takes on this characteristic himself, for as Alcibiades tells the others at the symposium, Socrates has been known to stand all day and night in contemplation, neither eating, nor sleeping {Symposium  60, 220c-d). In these moments, Socrates is clearly  neither fully part o f the physical world, as he ignores the progress o f time and his own physical needs, nor is he entirely i n the intelligible world, as he remains physically fixed in one place. L i k e Eros, Socrates can access both realms. Whitman's speaker also takes on this ability. L i k e Eros, who is neither god nor human, and Socrates, who is neither committed to the world o f appearances, nor entirely to the intelligible world, the speaker neither exists entirely within the spiritual nor the physical realm. A l l three o f these characters move between realities, mediating each for the other, as Hutchinson argues is the task o f the shaman. Whitman's speaker strategically situates himself between undefined locations, in defined border zones, or specifically between symbols for the physical and spiritual worlds. Some o f the ways i n which the speaker refuses to situate himself were discussed i n Chapter II, and we find him using similar methods i n "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand." In the immediate mode o f speaking, the poem is a first-person, present-tense warning to the reader to consider carefully the impulse to seek the speaker out. Once again, the speaker cannot be situated through place references, as he complements a series o f defined place references that are all alternatives to each other with deictic indicators referring to his own undefined time and location— the proximal moment we share with him. After commanding his readers to "release me now" ( W H H 11), and warning them o f his aversion to the indoors, he encourages, "But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares, / Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach o f the sea or  -107-  Chapter III some quiet island, / Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you" ( W H H 17-9). N o t only do these lines illustrate the linguistic indicators suggesting that this is meant to be understood as a shared present tense for both speaker and audience, but they also capture the speaker's unwillingness to commit to any location or course o f action. The locations he names are separated by the conjunction "or," indicating that any one can be substituted i n for another, while the deictic "here" could indicate, i n conjunction with "or," any one o f these locations, as the speaker's consciousness shifts between them, or simply his undefined present location. The speaker's commitment to his audience is also tempered by the qualifying adverb, "possibly." However, the speaker's refusal to commit to a location is accompanied by a progression in imagery from a rejection o f indoor spaces to "just possibly" alone on a h i l l , or even more favourably, "possibly" on the sea or by the seashore. This is a clear progression from the sort o f site the speaker would consider as fully part o f the physical world o f appearances, and therefore unacceptable for forging bonds between himself and his audience, toward a site infused with spirituality, where this intimate contact becomes possible. A s in the interactions o f bodies in "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the Body Electric," the speaker ensures that his interaction with his audience takes place i n a spiritualized venue, produced i n part by these pragmatic indicators. To some extent, spirituality is also the overriding theme o f the Calamus cluster o f poems, o f which "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w i n Hand" is a part. This section o f Leaves of Grass takes its name from a type o f grass common i n marshy areas. Growing in clusters, the long spear-shaped leaves are quite tall, while the root has often been identified as a phallic symbol by critics, because o f its shape. However, i f the grass is a uniform hieroglyphic, as suggested in "Song o f Myself," this cluster o f Leaves of Grass is  -108-  Chapter III surely connected intimately with the definitions Whitman offers for the meaning o f the grass. Indeed, the theme o f death and the eternity o f the soul is picked up again in this section ("the hair o f graves" that "shows there is really no death") ( S M 110, 126), as is democracy ("sprouting alike i n broad zones and narrow zones") ( S M 107). In "These I Singing in Spring," Whitman gives the calamus root a particular meaning as "the token o f comrades" (20) to be reserved and given "only to them that love as I myself am capable o f loving" (28). While this might seem to confirm the homoerotic themes o f this cluster of poems, it certainly also has other important meanings tied into it. In fact, this grass shares the significant traits o f the seashore as a site o f crossover between the material and spiritual realms. In the marsh, as at the seashore, the water and land merge—each flows into the other, creating a zone o f blending between the two mediums. The calamus grass takes root i n this in-between place, much like the poet, who consistently sings from border zones between the spiritual and material realms, or, as we have seen, from indefinable locations. W h i l e one meaning o f the leaves o f grass, discussed i n Chapter II, was as a representation o f the individuals within a communal democracy, it becomes more likely here that this particular kind o f grass, mediating between water and land, is symbolic o f the poet, mediating between the spiritual and physical worlds. Retaining our understanding o f calamus grass as a homoerotic symbol, i n this context it ultimately becomes an illustration o f the spiritual nature o f the love between men that binds this democracy together. The focus on these bonds o f love should connote the fundamental community and spiritual underpinnings o f a healthy democracy, and this was certainly what Plato was encouraging when he discussed the lover-learner relationship throughout The Symposium. It is within this context that we must consider the poems i n the Calamus  - 109-  Chapter III cluster, including "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w i n Hand." Overlooking this context has led many critics toward implausible and often inconsistent understandings o f these poems and o f the character o f the cluster as a whole. For instance, "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand" has often been interpreted as one o f the poems that problematizes Whitman's recognition o f his homosexuality. The poem is included in the Calamus cluster, described b y Whitman as a cluster o f poems devoted to adhesiveness, the deep emotional bonds between men. While the Calamus poems are often discussed in terms their underlying homoeroticism, other critics have noted that the nineteenth century had a very different understanding o f bonding i n male relationships. In reading "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand" and other Calamus poems, we must remember that because the sphere o f public male friendship rarely extended to women, it is likely that when Whitman refers to "comrades" ( W H H 20-1), he means "men." W e can understand this i n either o f two ways. Either Whitman was a homosexual and we read his comrades as his love interests, or Whitman could not conceive o f having women as intimate friends because o f the social constraints o f his era. In nineteenth-century America, men and women could court, and once married, they were expected to have a reasonably orderly domestic existence together, which could range from a deep friendship and love for one another to an emotionless or even hateful domestic partnership. From a twenty-first-century perspective, we could conceive o f adhesiveness  as including women, or indeed describing relationships  between women, though Whitman would probably have experienced some hesitation at this notion. I f we remember that b y advocating adhesiveness, Whitman aimed to claim for men the intimacy women typically shared i n the nineteenth century (Kaplan 234), it  -110-  Chapter III seems increasingly likely that what Whitman describes i n this poem and in the rest o f the Calamus cluster is not an attempt to "come out" as Robert K . Martin suggests, but rather the profound intimacy o f friends, the camaraderie on which the accord and unity o f a nation could be built—another reason for Whitman to portray this love between men, as women were not yet voters in the United States. This is not to say that Whitman was not gay—in fact, I would agree with most critics that homoeroticism is explicit throughout the  Calamus  cluster. However, I believe that throughout  the  Calamus  poems,  homoeroticism serves a distinctively political and spiritual function, and it cannot be interpreted simply as an end i n itself. The speaker's invitation to his readers is, therefore, spiritually and politically charged, rather than o f an exclusively personal nature. Although the speaker refuses to be located, because o f his underlying political and spiritual goals, the speaker cannot be so impossible to find that his audience gives up. Thus, while he guarantees that the contact between himself and his audience w i l l be o f a spiritual nature, he also provides a physical route toward this contact. Whitman's speaker must be able to relate to the world his audience understands to be "real," much like Eros is able to communicate with both gods and humans, and Socrates is able to build his dialogues upon the existing understanding o f his listeners. Indeed, this is fundamental to the Platonic conceptualization o f the interaction between teacher and learner. For instance, Eros and other spirits "serve as the medium for divination, for priestly expertise in sacrifice, ritual and spells, and for all prophecy and sorcery" (Symposium  39, 202e-  203a). This is because, like the shaman, Eros is a messenger spirit who carries messages back and forth between realms, between gods and humans. Moreover, Eros's aim is to bring forth beauty in body and mind (Symposium  -111-  43, 206b). Similarly, i n Plato's  Chapter III Republic, which in many ways describes the fundamentals o f his system o f reasoning, Socrates argues in the "Allegory o f the Cave" that once an individual has ascended from the cave and realized the extent o f the real world beyond mere shadows upon a wall, he must return to the cave to help others out o f it (234). In the same way, Whitman's speaker provides a point o f access for his audience through the portrayal o f his self—the representing and represented  aspects  o f his consciousness—as alive, active, and  interactive, despite being confined to an inanimate book. The very title, "Whoever Y o u Are Holding M e N o w in Hand," calls a reader's attention to the book-object before us i n three distinct ways. First, "whoever you are" makes it clear that the speaker's attention is on us as readers—we are unknown to him, but he is certain that we exist, and that when we encounter this we w i l l recognize ourselves as the intended audience for this writing. Next, "now" points the reader to the moment o f reading, rather than the speaker's moment o f writing in the 1850s. The deictic indicator, "now," and the use o f the present tense throughout the poem work to align the moment o f utterance with the moment o f reading, despite the historical gap between the two. "Release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from m y shoulders" ( W H H 11), suggests the speaker, implying the reader—and the reader's present moment—in the speaker's moment o f utterance. Finally, the third way the title calls readers' attention to the book before us is through the reference to the speaker, "holding me [...]  in hand," which proposes a  slippage between the speaker's identity and the book-object. W e realize the speaker is not immediately before us, and that "in hand" we hold a book-object. Y e t this suggests that he is identifiable and embodied through this object that we can hold and carry with us. This notion is repeated at several intervals throughout the poem, as when the speaker  - 112-  Chapter III urges, "Put me down and depart on your way" ( W H H 12), "Or i f you w i l l , thrusting me beneath your clothing, / Where I may feel the throbs o f your heart or rest upon your hip, / Carry me when you go forth over land or sea" ( W H H 22-4). Robert K . Martin reads Whitman's invitation to thrust his book "beneath your clothing" as a rejection o f his former idealism in favour o f the bodily, but I believe this would be a turn toward inconsistency that is contrary to the purpose o f the work as a whole. In fact, Whitman was known to pride himself for being "a shade under six feet tall and weighing about 180 pounds" (Kaplan 152). Because o f this, the invitation to thrust h i m beneath our clothing and carry h i m forth implies awareness on the speaker's part that this would be physically impossible for most people, i f this were a reference to Whitman's actual body. W e can conclude this is not the man we are thrusting beneath our clothing, to carry over land and sea. Clearly, he intends to incarnate himself i n a roughly 400-page text. However, it is important to note that even in this form, he stages his own agency. The primary grammatical subject throughout the poem is the "you" o f the reader; the speaker describes the reader's agency i n this relationship, which I w i l l return to i n a moment. But he also interjects his own agency at certain key points, as in the passage above. "Thrusting me beneath your clothing," and "Carry me forth" both use the objective pronoun "me" to refer to the speaker/book-object as experiencer, yet between these phrases, we find "Where I may feel the throbs o f your heart or rest upon your hip," suggesting that even incarnated into an inanimate book-object, the speaker retains agency; he characterizes himself as able to feel, think, and act through the embodied form o f the book-object. Although this does create an ideal platform on which to stage intimate contact between speaker and reader, a means to embody bodilessness and to render the disembodied  - 113-  Chapter III identitylessness o f the speaker identifiable to the reader, many critics have argued that this is a failed attempt. Scholars like Robert K . Martin and Tenney Nathanson view the elusiveness o f the speaker as a failure to truly manifest himself i n the text, or they consider the book-object as a mere crutch for a weak suggestion o f co-presence. However, I believe this staging o f presence deliberately serves to make obvious the absence o f the author, and the elusiveness o f the speaker. Indeed, the speaker confirms that he w i l l not be recognized: "For these leaves and me you w i l l not understand, / They w i l l elude you at first and still more afterward, I w i l l elude you also" ( W H H 28-9). This staging o f identifiability and embodiment also serves to render the message universal, by actually preserving the identitylessness and disembodiment o f the speaker; it both provides the reader with a physical point o f contact with this identity—the book-object— and through obvious disparity between book-object and consciousness, makes real the disembodiment o f the speaker, and thus his potential to assume any identity and convey a universal message. Although the lover/instructor in Plato and Whitman is willing and able to relate to his protege's level o f understanding, the burden o f learning is placed entirely upon the student. This is evident i n Plato's description o f the ideal republican school system in The Republic. Although all children were to be admitted to Plato's ideal vision o f a school, only those consistently demonstrating high potential throughout their adolescence would be permitted to carry on to higher levels o f education and o f government. It remains the student's responsibility to fulfill his or her potential i n such a system, regardless o f what kind o f career this might lead to (Republic 103-7). Moreover, this onus is also clear in Socrates's attitudes in the dialogues—when one member o f the discussion fails to  - 114-  Chapter III comprehend and merely wanders off, Socrates consistently remains focused on the students who are still attending the lesson. It is also evident in the shifts in agency in "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand," which place the burden o f following the speaker squarely on the shoulders o f the reader. The poem is one o f caution, wherein the speaker takes on the task o f warning the reader, but asks that the reader take an active role in making a decision in light o f this warning. Thus, there exists a balance o f agency in this poem that shifts between speaker and reader. A s discussed i n the previous paragraph, the poem's title line places the focus o f attention upon the reader. However, the speaker quickly asserts his agency, offering the first o f his cautions: "I give you fair warning before you attempt me further, / I am not what you supposed, but far different" ( W H H 3-4). In these lines, it is also apparent that the speaker is making certain assumptions regarding the reader's course o f action, namely, that the reader is struggling to grasp the speaker's meaning. Next, rather than outright affirming, "I am looking for followers and lovers," he places the burden upon his reader to take agency by volunteering, asking, "Who is he that would become m y follower? / W h o would sign himself a candidate for m y affections?" ( W H H 5-6). Throughout the poem, the speaker aligns his representing consciousness with both the present and anticipated experiences o f the reader, through the use o f the second person: " Y o u would have to give up all else" ( W H H 8), for otherwise, and perhaps even so, "These leaves and me you w i l l not understand" ( W H H 28), "Already you see I have escaped you" ( W H H 31). Again, the speaker is making assumptions about the reader's state o f mind, specifically, with regard to whether the reader is managing to follow the meaning o f his discourse. Ultimately, however, the speaker leaves it to the reader to take initiative and struggle with his  -115-  Chapter III message. In fact, the speaker reserves his own agency for permitting or eluding the agency o f the reader. W h i l e he suggests he may "permit you" ( W H H 19) to kiss him, he also eludes the reader through passive resistance: "I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead" ( W H H 16), "I silently sleep" ( W H H 26), and finally, he concludes, "I have escaped you" ( W H H 31). This may be the result o f his resistance, or o f the student's failure to grasp his meaning, or both. In any case, the onus remains upon the reader to struggle to follow what Whitman's speaker is getting at through his hints, or what he means when he discourages the not completely w i l l i n g student, insisting, "For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at; / Therefore release me and depart on your way" ( W H H 37-8). But what is it that the speaker hints at and hopes his reader w i l l be able to identify through much study and devotion? These hints are certainly i n the text at hand, and indeed, we have considered some o f them already in our exploration o f lexical collocation i n Chapter II. The act o f translation Whitman's speaker engages in is one o f the chief functions ascribed to Eros i n his relations between gods and humans: he "interpret[s] and carr[ies] messages from humans to gods and from gods to humans" (Symposium  39, 202e). In a similar way, Socrates is also engaged i n a process o f  translation, redefining common terms in dialogue, i n an attempt to probe their deeper meanings. For instance, i n The Symposium,  Socrates helps the participants to redefine  their understanding o f love by posing question after question about the spirit Eros, and thus moving from a simplistic understanding o f love as a beautiful, wonderful, powerful experience, to a more complex notion o f lack and resulting desire (Symposium 33-43, 198e-206b) However, the multiplicity o f the speaker's meanings again emerges i n  -116-  Chapter III "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w in Hand." Earlier, I examined the lines where the speaker asks, "Who is he that would become my follower? / W h o would sign himself a candidate for m y affections?" ( W H H 5-6),  and I would like to look at these once again.  The pairing o f these two terms, "follower" and "candidate for [...] affections," suggests to me the student/lover relationship described by Plato and suggested throughout m y reading o f Whitman's poetry. However, many critics, like Robert K . Martin, have chosen to ignore the "follower" and instead focus only on the "candidate for [...]  affections,"  which leads them inevitably to conclude that Whitman's chief aim i n this poem, and indeed i n the Calamus cluster, is to hint at his homosexuality and identify similarlyoriented individuals. Clearly, this is a limited vision o f his project, as not only does the relationship between speaker and reader portrayed here mirror the lover/instructor relationship i n Plato, but the language Whitman uses is also highly suggestive o f a path o f spiritual learning and development, which, as Socrates makes clear repeatedly throughout his dialogues and through his martyrdom for his principles, can sometimes be a difficult and lonely pursuit (and thus worthy o f such a poem o f warning). A few lines i n particular point to a consistency o f the underlying spiritual theme throughout this poem:  The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive, Y o u would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard, Y o u r novitiate would even then be long and exhausting, The whole past theory o f your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon'd. ( W H H  -117-  7-10)  Chapter III  Three words stand out in this passage, i f only for their rarity: "standard" appears three times in Leaves of Grass,  "novitiate" appears only here, and "conformity" appears on a  mere four occasions. Moreover, all three o f these terms are notable for their flexible meanings. For instance, "standard" has a variety o f meanings as a noun, from a standard measure by which weights or lengths can be calibrated, to a flag standard bearing the insignia o f a government or an army and carried forth into battle. In general terms, it is " A n authoritative or recognized exemplar o f correctness, perfection, or some definite degree o f any quality" ("Standard"). Either Whitman's speaker is insisting that he remain the only symbol held up as emblematic o f his cause, or he is arguing that he is the person by whom others should judge their own quality. These meanings are certainly latent within this line and add depth to the intended meaning; however, another meaning seems more relevant here, given the emphasis placed on the identification o f the speaker with the book-object, discussed earlier. Standards are also "The books or documents accepted by a church as the authoritative statement o f its creed" ("Standard"). The entry notes indicate that this meaning for the word came into use in the 1840s and continued to appear throughout the nineteenth-century (it remains in use today), and that although it usually appears in the plural, it occasionally appears i n the singular i n reference to a specific doctrinal standard. Hence i n this instance, the singular is appropriately used, as the speaker's is the only creed he intends for his reader to follow. Meanwhile, rather than use other favoured terms, like "journey-work" or "apprenticeship," Whitman's speaker refers  to the reader's learning period as a "novitiate," which is properly, "The  probationary period undertaken by a novice before taking religious vows" ("Novitiate").  - 118-  Chapter III If these hints are not becoming obvious enough, there is one more. "Conformity to the lives around you" could be an alternative phrasing for "living life the same way everyone else does," especially given the contrastive context established i n the first part o f the line, "The whole past theory o f your life," which calls to mind a deliberate development o f a personal life philosophy, not simply the mimicking o f others. O f course, "Conformity" also has a specialized meaning: "Conformity i n worship, adherence to the form o f religion legally established or publicly recognized" ("Conformity"). Thus conformity to the lives o f others may easily refer to the simplistic acceptance o f their belief system. Despite these layers o f meaning pointing to the spiritual theme o f the poem, which to the best o f m y knowledge, has not been discussed by scholars, many w i l l probably object that none o f this in any way qualifies the homoerotic impulse o f "the comrade's long-dwelling kiss" ( W H H 20). However, it is essential to remember that the preferred site for this kiss is on the beach, the site where the spiritual and physical realms merge. B y this physical contact, the speaker is able to lead the reader/lover toward the spirituality o f the sea. Moreover, "comrade" is not entirely without spiritual connotations o f its own; in "Song o f M y s e l f we encounter G o d described as "The great Camerado" (1200) by the speaker, "camerado" being an archaic form o f "comrade," and appropriately so, as G o d must certainly be deemed first among spiritual lovers. Finally, the emphasis upon learning is reiterated toward the end o f the poem, when the speaker warns, "But these leaves conning, you con at peril" ( W H H 27). T o con is not only to know, but also to study or learn, and especially to commit to memory b y repetition. Clearly, Whitman's speaker is insisting here that to be able to recite his poetry is not enough—readers must invest more o f themselves into his meaning than simply learning his words b y rote. A s he insists, "it  -119-  Chapter III is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book, / Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it" (WHH 32-3). Rather, the reader must take the glimpses of the spiritual realm offered and set out to understand it for themselves—it is not accessible through this book, but Whitman's speaker clearly intends to begin his audience along their path. In summary, much like Eros and Socrates, Whitman's speaker remains elusive. Eros and Socrates are both caught between realms and can neither completely belong to one or the other. Similarly, Whitman's speaker has his feet in both the spiritual and physical worlds, like the calamus grass in the marsh. Moreover, at no point does Whitman's speaker consent to give himself fully to his audience—he asserts his avoidance: "I will certainly elude you" (WHH 29), "I have escaped from you" (WHH 31), "Nor will the candidates for my love [...]  prove victorious" (WHH 35); "Therefore  release me and depart on your way" (WHH 38). Indeed, the speaker will certainly continue to elude his followers, and continue to lead them on, just as Socrates does to his young lovers. Because "He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher" (SM 1236), readers can only expect to become worthy of the speaker's affections when we no longer have need of them. Moreover, the speaker's relationship to his audience in "Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand" provides added support for my previous argument about his relationship to other characters portrayed in "The Sleepers" and "I Sing the Body Electric." We see the relationship here is focused on spiritual instruction, with physical contact emerging only as a first step along this route, supporting the notion that his connection to other characters is also about appreciation of spiritual beauty and an imaginative connection between all souls. Because of its spiritual significance, Whitman approaches the body without fear and uses the erotic to support  - 120-  Chapter III the notion o f the divine individual as a being with united body and soul. However, this individualism is also important to the theme o f democracy implicit i n much o f Whitman's poetry. One o f Plato's symposium members, Pausanias, critiques the Persian tyranny, noting, "No doubt, it doesn't suit their government that their subjects should have b i g ideas or develop strong friendships and personal bonds, which are promoted by all these activities, especially by love" (Symposium eroticism  is important  not  14, 182b-c). A s in Plato, i n Whitman's poetry,  only for its educational  influence, but  also  for its  encouragement o f sharing ideas and o f forging significant community bonds, practices inherent to effective democratic government. Indeed, i n Chapter I V , I w i l l examine the speaker's relationship to this community and to his cosmos.  - 121 -  Chapter IV CHAPTER I V - T H E SPEAKER,THENATION, THE COSMOS  In the past two chapters, I have examined the speaker's portrayal o f himself, and I have probed his physical and spiritual relationships to the individuals with whom he interacts. I have noted that the speaker disconnects himself from any specific location through linguistic and imagistic disembodiment, and I have concluded that the eroticised interactions between bodies that he portrays are oriented toward the development o f the soul. But many questions remain: what role does the spirituality I have been describing play i n public life? H o w does it influence political life? This chapter w i l l explore the relationship o f the speaker to his world. The poems selected for analysis, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," and " A Noiseless Patient Spider," each illustrate different aspects o f this relationship. They portray the speaker's place as an individual poet i n a nation o f individuals, as a citizen in a democratic republic, and as a soul confronting the cosmos. In these poems, the poet o f democracy weaves together his spiritual bond with other individuals (including his audience) and his role as a spiritual singer with a conception o f his place i n public life that integrates the political, democratic individualism o f the United States with a parallel idea o f the individual soul as a functioning being i n a cosmic pattern.  4 . 1 T H E S P E A K E R A N D HIS W O R L D  "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" are both poems that depict the speaker's place in his nation. In "Crossing B r o o k l y n Ferry," he portrays himself amidst the crowds—an individual among individuals—on the deck of  -  122-  Chapter IV the ferry crossing the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn; meanwhile, "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" is an elegy to President Lincoln and thus implicitly portrays the speaker's understanding o f his place and role with respect to his deceased president, and to his nation. "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" captures routine daily experience as it is rendered timeless through a natural analogy to an archetypal version o f itself, the mythological echoes o f the river, the boat, the flow o f tides, and the ferry crossing. Most scholars approach the poem as a discussion o f the flow and changes o f time, and o f the unity and coherence o f the universal "scheme" across time ( C B F 7). Critics with philosophical leanings tend to interpret it as giving ordinary human beings a kind o f transcendence— certainly this is one o f the reasons Henry D a v i d Thoreau proclaimed it one o f Whitman's best poems, along with "Song o f Myself." Meanwhile, those scholars with a more psychological orientation to their criticism tend to disagree as to how much it reveals about the troubled psychological state o f the speaker—his doubts and fear o f intimacy— and as to whether the poem expresses a progression toward or a regression away from any resolution. Both aspects o f criticism o f this poem play into m y own understanding o f the speaker as suggesting the transcendent nature o f the human individual, and o f his need to remain disembodied and de-situated i n order to convey this message. In contrast, the elegy, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," was written in the weeks after President Lincoln's death. M a n y critics have noted that while Lincoln's death is the occasion for the poem, death itself is its subject. Neither Lincoln nor the fact of his assassination is ever mentioned, and the president is only referred to on a symbolic level, represented at least in part by the star. Indeed, criticism o f the poem has focused on  - 123-  Chapter IV its style, structure, symbols—the hermit thrush, the star, and the lilac—and on its resolution, where the poet walks with "the thought of death" and "the knowledge of death," two distinct companions, in remembrance of the dead. Given Whitman's lifelong emphasis on being a new American voice, it is not surprising that while the poem follows the general pattern of elegy from grief to consolation and includes many traditional elegiac elements, its progression is unconventional, and it winds back on itself a few times before arriving at this resolution. Despite its avoidance of any specific reference to the president, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" also manages to indirectly explore the relationship between poet and political leader. Moreover, like "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," this poem also suggests the transcendent nature of the human being, and addresses questions of the flow of time and the permanence of death. While some readings of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" do gesture indirectly toward the spiritual foundations of the United States democracy, most do not consider how the poet achieves the expression of his dual consciousness; his awareness of the material, daily world, and his awareness of the spiritual world underlying it. R.W. French mentions that the thrush is a symbol for the poet in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," and that the thrush emerges from the swamp, one of the spiritualized locations where water and earth meet, allowing the poet access to both the spiritual and material realms they respectively represent (772). However, while the sailing of the ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" is sometimes recognized as a spiritualized voyage, many of the other indications of the fundamentally spiritual nature of the poem's message are often overlooked. Each in its own way, these poems suggest that the eternal spiritual realm—  - 124-  Chapter IV what Christians might call the Kingdom of God—coexists continuously with the material world and temporal flow of daily life. The poet is able to perceive this thanks to his privileged position between these realms, and he aims to communicate this reality to his readers. He achieves this communication by continuing to displace his voice, to use imagery of transience and placelessness, and to construct metaphors by compounding meanings. By these means, the speaker is able to equate the place of the individual in a democracy with the place of the soul in the cosmos, and to interpret between these two realms, illustrating their connections and thereby demonstrating the significance of worldly activities to the coexisting spiritual life of the nation and its individual citizens.  4.2 A P O E T S U S P E N D E D : " C R O S S I N G B R O O K L Y N F E R R Y "  My analysis of this process begins with "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which recounts the speaker's reflections on the passage across the river and on the world around him. This is an unusual poem to consider as the speaker is understood to be specifically located—an infrequent occurrence in Whitman's poetry. The ferry was a feature of the historical New York landscape, running across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn prior to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The speaker carefully negotiates this location, in many ways implying his presence in a specific place and time, and in many ways refusing to commit himself to it. Apart from the reference to the ferry in the title, the speaker's address to the waters, "Flood-tide below me" (CBF 1), in the poem's first line seems to indicate that he is on board. However, he never overtly confirms this—there is no mention of him standing on the deck, or seeing or greeting the captain. In fact, the evidence once again points to his unwillingness to be situated. Three  -125-  Chapter IV interlinked characteristics o f the speaker's discourse point to this conclusion: what he perceives, his emphasis on the experiences o f others, and the related split between the experiences o f his represented and representing consciousnesses. Based on the description in the first two lines, o f the water below and the clouds and sun in the sky above, readers might expect the speaker to continue to describe what he sees. However, following a brief acknowledgment that he sees crowds and ferry-boats, the speaker shifts immediately to a different mode o f perception. What he sees is:  The impalpable sustenance o f me from all things at all hours o f the day, The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part o f the scheme, The similitudes o f the past and those o f the future, The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk i n the street and the passage over the river, The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away. ( C B F 610)  This is not the imagery o f the material world around the speaker—although the street and river are worldly objects, the speaker's focus is on the glories he perceives i n these, his smallest sights and hearings; the street and river themselves are clearly less important by comparison with his more significant observation o f the cosmic scheme o f the past, present and future. Thus, this seems to be the "impalpable," "disintegrated" imagery o f the speaker's meditations, mentioned in line five. However, the absence o f verbs and  - 126-  Chapter IV deictic indicators makes the speaker impossible to situate with reference to this passage. The mention o f "current" may imply the passage o f the ferry, but the immediate use o f "swimming" brings to mind the accumulated imagery o f swimming and bathing that appears throughout Leaves  of Grass  i n conjunction with the passage toward a more  spiritually aware consciousness. Moreover, the speaker's focus shifts quickly from his own location above the water and below the sky to, "The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them" ( C B F 11). The speaker does not indicate whether his followers w i l l step onto the ferry behind him, i f that is indeed where he is situated, or whether they w i l l simply live i n the years following his own lifetime:  Others w i l l enter the gates o f the ferry and cross from shore to shore, Others w i l l watch the run o f the flood-tide, Others w i l l see the shipping o f Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east, Others w i l l see the islands large and small; Fifty years hence, others w i l l see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high, A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others w i l l see them, W i l l enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in o f the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea o f the ebb-tide. ( C B F 13-9)  -127-  Chapter IV It is important to note that although the speaker does specify that others w i l l ride the ferry, he does not give any indication that he is on board in his present moment o f speaking—in no way does he say they w i l l take the ferry crossing, "as I do now." The repeated use o f "others," although it carries though from the "others that w i l l follow" o f the previous lines, also insistently emphasizes the opposition between the speaker's self and the others outside o f himself. Thus, in contrast to the previous verse, where the speaker described his meditations, the worldly sights do not seem to belong to h i m , but only to those others who are yet to come. H i s vision has already transcended theirs, and he no longer sees the material world in terms o f its sights and sounds, i n terms o f its land (shore, islands) and commerce (shipping). The emphasis on the temporal aspect o f others to follow is supported by his reiterated mentions o f time frames with respect to his own present moment: "fifty years hence, [...] a hundred years hence, or ever so many years hence." Once again, while the sights o f the others, years hence, may rest upon the material world, their vision is also subsumed by the cosmic insight the speaker has already achieved. B y the end o f the verse, the others years hence are watching "the sunset, the pouring-in o f the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea o f the ebb-tide." Their focus is shifting from the material world to the spiritual world the speaker perceives. The notion that the speaker's consciousness has moved beyond simple sensory perceptions o f the material world is also supported by his navigation between aspects o f his consciousness, between his past memories and imagined future, and the apparent present. H i s memories include the sights and sounds o f Manhattan and Brooklyn and the transit from one to the other. He incorporates a straightforward use o f the displaced mode in recounting these memories. Throughout section three, the speaker explains that he  - 128-  Chapter IV "saw" and "look'd" at the ships, storehouses, docks, foundries, and houses—his representing consciousness recounts the remembered experiences of his extroverted represented consciousness from a different, unspecified time and place. This use of the displaced mode of recollection is also aligned with the experiences of others. He explains that he too has seen all of these sights, presumably as the readers, the "others that will follow," are seeing them now. Yet the vision of his present moment is difficult to situate. He addresses his readers, "I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence" (CBF 21). Through the word "hence," he juxtaposes his present moment of writing with the reader's present moment of reading, acknowledging they are different, yet asserting they are the same through his claim "I am with you." He proposes to be both in his present moment of writing and in the reader's present moment of reading, despite the inherent opposition between them. The speaker remains impossible to situate in light of his insistence that time, place, and distance avail not, and when he returns to the immediate mode in section four, readers are given another classic example of the speaker's elusiveness:  These and all else were to me the same as they are to you, I loved well those cities, loved well the stately and rapid river, The men and women I saw were all near to me, Others the same—others who look back on me because I look'd forward to them, (The time will come, though I stop here to-day and to-night.) (CBF 49-53)  -129-  Chapter IV In this passage the speaker shifts between deictic indicators of proximity and distance, between past memories and the reader's present moment, between a conjecture for the future, "the time will come," and the displaced, immediate mode, "I stop here to-day and to-night." In combination with the suggestion that his perception has transcended simple worldly appearances, and his alignment of sensory understanding of the world with others yet to come, this distinctive split between his remembered experience and undefined present only confirms the impossibility of situating the poem's speaker. What remains clear is that from this undefined position, the speaker has access to both his remembered understanding of the material world, and to a corresponding contemplation of the spiritual world. In Chapter III, I examined the beach and the marsh as spiritual sites, where the spiritual medium of water merges with the material medium of land. Like boats, ferries were, for Whitman, a means of accessing the spiritual medium. Indeed, ferry voyages always call to mind the archetypal ferry across the river Styx in the underworld, the oneway journey from the land of the living to the afterlife. For Whitman, the ferry existed in both realms; it allowed riders to access the material and spiritual realms simultaneously. More importantly, in the case of the Brooklyn Ferry, the transit across water—the spiritual voyage between shores—is potentially a part of the daily commute. Several elements in the poem point to the ferry as a point of access. Indeed, the poem begins with the line, "Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face! / Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face" (CBF 1-2). From the start, the speaker is carried upon the flood of spiritual waters, surrounded by the clouds of the spiritual atmosphere, and confronted by the symbolic centre of the cosmic scheme, the sun. The  -130-  Chapter IV speaker expresses his recognition and understanding o f these symbolic elements o f the spiritual world through his claim to see them "face to face," which implies the same kind o f personal confidence and understanding that, in business relationships for instance, only emerges in face-to-face meetings and that simply cannot be achieved through mediated contact like teleconferencing or e-mail. In the next verse, the speaker juxtaposes his deep understanding o f the spiritual realm with his fundamental curiosity regarding the material world—the costumed crowds on the ferry-boats. The description o f the crowds as "attired in the usual costumes" ( C B F 3) is especially significant, for "attire" has a strong collocational bond with "costume" and Whitman certainly did not need to reiterate the notion o f dress and disguise. W i t h only minor changes to the line, the alternatives include, "Crowds o f men and women i n the usual attire/costumes," and "Crowds o f men and women attired/costumed as usual." The use o f both terms in one line is a reinforcement o f this nexus o f connected ideas, and as Halliday points out, repeated allusions to lexically cohesive items within a short period over a discourse makes the motif discussed memorable (Halliday 535-6). Thus, the reinforced mention o f "costumes" prepares the reader for a discussion o f the underlying reality that is different from its appearance, or costume. Moreover, this sets the tone for the next sections o f the poem, discussed earlier i n terms o f the speaker's displacement throughout, where he juxtaposes his meditations upon the spiritual realm that exists outside o f time with the appearances o f the world he has seen around h i m . The speaker represents some traditional attitudes toward the world o f appearances in section six o f the poem, which explores his memories o f his connection to the material world. Christians have long represented the world o f appearances as leading an individual  - 131 -  Chapter IV toward temptation and evil, a view the speaker acknowledges as his own "dark patches" ( C B F 65). H e recounts his lies, lusts, anger, and indulgences in the world o f flesh. However, the end o f the section brings a shift that carries through to the end o f the poem to not only resolve this rather negative view o f the world, but also to posit a significant claim regarding the spirituality o f the material world. This shift begins when the speaker explains he has:  Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping, Play'd the part that still looks back on the actor or actress, The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like, Or as small as we like, or both great and small. ( C B F 82-5)  B y openly acknowledging that he plays a role i n the material world, and that he perceives the role he has played as he moves through the world o f appearances, the speaker implicitly suggests that there is something beyond appearances that readers must take into account. A s he notes, the role each person plays in life is only what he or she makes o f it, meaning that some may choose to make more o f it than others. Before following up this new lead, the speaker has another classic episode o f elusiveness as he claims to draw near the reader. H e achieves this i n section seven, where he shifts between the present tense and certainty, "Closer yet I approach you" ( C B F 86), and recounting his planning i n the past tense, "I laid i n m y stores i n advance, / I consider'd long and seriously o f you before you were born" ( C B F 87-8), only to arrive at  -132-  Chapter IV present tense hypothesis: "Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?" ( C B F 91). Clearly, he is unwilling to commit to a sense o f proximity with the reader. H e calls attention to the distance between h i m and us, his readers, even though he earlier insisted "distance avails not" ( C B F 56), he fails to affirm that he is watching, but is only doing something as good as watching, and reminds us that we cannot see him. Nevertheless, the speaker is evidently approaching his audience in progressive steps. In section eight, he provides his translation o f the evils and temptations identified in section six:  A h , what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm'd Manhattan? River and sunset and scallop-edg'd waves o f flood-tide? The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat i n the twilight, and the belated lighter? What gods can exceed these that clasp me by the hand, and with voices I love call me promptly and loudly b y m y nighest name as I approach? What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face? Which fuses me into you now, and pours m y meaning into you?  W e understand then do we not? What I promis'd without mentioning it, have you not accepted?  - 133-  Chapter IV What the study could not teach—what the preaching could not accomplish is accomplish'd, is it not? (CBF 92-100)  "Mast-hemm'd Manhattan" is no longer simply a centre of trade and commerce, it is associated implicitly with the river, waves, and flood, all reiterations of the spiritual waters around the island, but also with the sunset, the transition from day to the spirituality of the darkness, discussed in Chapter III. The lusty bodies that pressed against the speaker are now "gods," whose touch is no longer an eroticized grasp but a hand clasped in true affection. Moreover, just as the speaker encountered the flood-tide, the clouds, and the sun "face to face" in the first lines of his poem, he explains that the people around him now look "in my face." This repeated expression, only slightly altered, suggests that an undeniable understanding has been reached, allowing the speaker, across distance and time, to suddenly come into full intellectual and spiritual contact with his reader, where he was elusive earlier. This look of understanding, he says, "fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you," and in the next verse, he insists that an understanding has been reached that is beyond the realm of study and preaching. The ferry-voyage, then, is a transit that allows the speaker to see the spiritualized world permeating the material world. In case the reader has not grasped this understanding, the discovery is celebrated throughout section nine, which ends with a clear articulation of the point:  Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are, You necessary film, continue to envelop the soul,  -134-  Chapter IV  About  my  body  for m e ,  and your b o d y  for you, be  h u n g out  divinest  aromas,  T h r i v e , c i t i e s — b r i n g y o u r freight, b r i n g y o u r s h o w s , a m p l e a n d  sufficient  rivers,  E x p a n d , b e i n g t h a n w h i c h n o n e else is p e r h a p s m o r e s p i r i t u a l ,  K e e p y o u r p l a c e s , o b j e c t s t h a n w h i c h n o n e else is m o r e lasting.  Y o u have waited, y o u always wait, y o u d u m b , beautiful ministers,  W e r e c e i v e y o u w i t h f r e e s e n s e at l a s t , a n d a r e i n s a t i a t e h e n c e - f o r w a r d ,  N o t y o u a n y m o r e s h a l l b e a b l e to f o i l u s , o r w i t h h o l d y o u r s e l v e s f r o m u s ,  W e u s e y o u , a n d d o not cast y o u a s i d e — w e p l a n t y o u p e r m a n e n t l y w i t h i n  us,  W e f a t h o m y o u n o t — w e l o v e y o u — t h e r e is p e r f e c t i o n i n y o u also,  Y o u furnish y o u r parts t o w a r d eternity,  G r e a t or s m a l l , y o u f u r n i s h y o u r parts t o w a r d the soul.  Understood  beads" (CBF  properly, appearances  are  the  key  to  ( C B F 120-32)  perceiving  the  "glories  strung  9) a c r o s s t h e m o s t c o m m o n s i g h t s o f d a i l y l i f e . T h e f e r r y c r o s s i n g p r o v i d e s  travellers a c c e s s to the s p i r i t u a l w o r l d b y f r e e i n g t h e i r senses, a l l o w i n g travellers to  appearances  like  as  "ministers"  silently  t h e m s e l v e s . T h u s , the p o e m describes  pointing  a process  to  the  spiritual  world  innate  see  within  o f achieving spiritual v i s i o n through a  w o r l d l y p o i n t o f a c c e s s . T h e p h y s i c a l transit f r o m o n e p o i n t to a n o t h e r , the p o s i t i o n i n g o f  the s p e a k e r a n d the others h e sees u p o n the s p i r i t u a l i z e d waters i n - b e t w e e n  - 135-  shores,  the  Chapter IV motionless motion o f the ferry rider as he "stand[s] and lean[s] on the rail, yet hurr[ies] with the swift current" ( C B F 25), each contribute to shifting the ferry rider's perspective from the world he or she is immersed in to the timelessness o f that world, to its enduring qualities, and thus to its eternal spiritual life. Through this shift in perspective, appearances become valuable and the material world is valorized; no longer is the material world a source o f temptation and deceit. The moment o f vision granted to the ferry-rider persists and endures, developing into a perception o f the material world that can comprehend some o f the many other points o f access to the spiritual realm discussed throughout this thesis; for instance, the grass as an indication o f the individual, o f democracy and common humanity, and o f the eternal cycle by which life is continuously renewed, or the body and its sexuality as an indication o f the human need for connection, or the seashore and swamp as sites where the boundary between land and water, between material and spiritual, becomes merged and unclear. N o longer can the individual with this privileged perception consider the material world as one o f temptations; permeating his or her understanding o f this world is the visible perfection o f the spiritual realm i n plain sight. However, the speaker's discovery o f the inherent perfection o f the material world, and o f its ability to lead us toward the spiritual world, has some dramatic implications for our understanding o f our world and our place in it. Unlike the archetypal ferry that runs a one-way trip for passengers between life and the afterlife, Whitman's passengers "cross from shore to shore" ( C B F 4), apparently i n both directions. O n the water, ferry travellers can find an interlude where the material world gives way to the fundamentally spiritual existence that permeates it. Indeed, the speaker looks into the water early i n the poem and  - 136 -  Chapter IV his own divinity becomes immediately apparent to him; he recalls seeing "the fine centrifugal spokes o f light round the shape o f m y head in the sunlit water" ( C B F 33). This vision o f his own halo affirms the conclusion reached i n Chapter II, that the speaker sees both himself and all other humans as divine. Indeed, he later invites all ferry travellers, present and future, to observe the same: "Diverge, fine spokes o f light, from the shape o f m y head, or any one's head, in the sunlit water!" ( C B F 116). This understanding o f the divinity o f the individual also relates to the place o f the nation within the cosmic scheme. Indeed, to revise the Christian notion o f the Kingdom of God, the speaker's nation becomes the republic o f the many individual gods inhabiting it. To return to some o f the lines considered earlier in this chapter, the spirituality that exists on an individual level re-emerges, on a second consideration, on a political level. The speaker remembers the ship masts in the harbour bearing "the flags o f all nations" ( C B F 43), suggesting that the city, or at least the harbour around it, is a synecdochical figure for the place o f America i n the political world—-it has ties to other nations, and is host to these nations; it is the land to which others come. Thus, the speaker invites the future o f the cities and the nation: "Thrive, cities—bring your freight, bring your shows, ample and sufficient rivers" ( C B F 123). In this line, it is unclear whether the invitation to "bring your freight, bring your shows" is addressed to the cities or to the rivers, or whether the cities are invited to bring their freight, shows, and rivers. In either case, the cities, freight, and shows become linked to rivers, tying them all to the spiritual realm. Thus, although cities, their commerce, and their activities belong to the world o f appearances, they also provide a link to the underlying spiritual world. It does not take an extraordinary leap o f the imagination to understand the city's spirituality as extending to  -137-  Chapter IV the nation. The speaker establishes this connection with his question: " A h , what can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemm'd Manhattan? / River and sunset and scallop-edg'd waves o f flood-tide?" ( C B F 92-3). The word "stately" means both majestic and pertaining to the state, and o f course, the proximity o f these references to the city, the state, and the imagery o f the waves and tide once again bind both city and state to the eternal spiritual realm. In this way, the speaker works to ensure that the development o f spiritual perception charted throughout this poem is oriented toward understanding the divinity o f individuals and the divine nature o f the democratic republic they have created.  4.3 T H E S P I R I T U A L D E M O C R A T I C M E R G E R : " W H E N L I L A C S L A S T IN T H E D O O R Y A R D BLOOM'D"  L i k e "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" also explores the opportunities for crossover between the material and spiritual realms. Two key historical facts are essential to keep in mind with respect to this poem's composition: it was written at the end o f a four-year C i v i l W a r that struggled, i n part, toward an ideal o f national identity, and it was written on the occasion o f the death o f the national leader, President Lincoln, and purports to memorialize him. Therefore, before the reader can even engage with the text o f the elegy itself, the circumstances o f the poem's composition have already necessarily evoked a set o f ideas and ideals related to democratic nationhood, and the average citizen's ability to recognize and elect effective republican leadership. Thus, unlike "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," the emphasis i n "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" is not on developing the mode o f perception  -138-  Chapter IV required to understand the congruities between the material and spiritual realms, but on comprehending the place o f the individual within his or her nation, and the inherently spiritual nature o f the democratic nation itself. M a n y critics have observed the representational elegizing o f L i n c o l n through the poem's symbolism. The general concurrence is that the star represents Lincoln, the thrush represents the poet, and the lilacs represent consolation found i n the natural world rather than in a blind belief in a Christian vision o f the eternal afterlife. Others have focused on the portrayal o f Whitman's sense o f kinship with Lincoln, whom he described in his other writings as manly, pure, hearty, and tender, and thus i n many ways like himself. This personal affection for the president is conveyed in the poem, and has i n turn attracted the attention o f critics who read this as yet another one o f Whitman's homoerotic texts. Critical attention has also focused on the role and presence o f death i n the poem, and the speaker's sudden, intuitive discovery o f the thought o f death and the sacred knowledge o f death, which R . W . French describes as a "complete comprehension o f death itself and its place i n the universal order" (772), and which he attributes to Whitman's experiences as a nurse i n the C i v i l War hospitals. However, I wish to focus on the poem's slippery issues o f identity and agency, which allow Whitman to use Lincoln's death and memorial to explore the individual's relationship to the state, as well as the spiritual bonds at work i n this relationship. The poem features a complex structure that interweaves the three chief symbols, developing their meaning further each time they reappear. It begins with a powerful articulation o f the mourning experience, cast i n epic and prophetic terms: "When lilacs last i n the dooryard bloom'd, / A n d the great star early droop'd i n the western sky i n the  - 139-  Chapter IV night, / 1 mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring" ( W L L 1-3). Here the lilacs and great star are used as time markers for mourning—appropriately, one occurs yearly, while the other is an astronomical phenomenon that may occur once in a lifetime. Mourning takes on a paradoxical duality, as the speaker mourns on one occasion, but also integrates a yearly cycle o f mourning. The speaker then presents his three key symbols, the star, the lilac, and the thrush. Although each o f these symbols is significant to this analysis, I w i l l focus primarily on the poet and his representation in the form o f the thrush, as well as his relationship to the president, seen i n both the passing coffin and the drooping star. The solitary thrush is first introduced in section four, singing i n seclusion in the swamp. M u c h like the poet and calamus grass, the thrush makes its home in a site o f merger between land and water. H i s is the "Song o f the bleeding throat, / Death's outlet song o f life, (for well dear brother I know, / If thou wast not granted to sing thou would'st surely die)" ( W L L 23-5). The poet and the thrush both present the dichotomy o f life and death, for like sound and silence, neither can exist without the other. This begins to set up the resolution o f the poem—that death is a necessary part o f the life cycle—a theme that is brought back and developed several times throughout the poem. Indeed section five evolves this idea in a different way, juxtaposing the spring landscape and the imagery o f new, young life, o f fresh sprouting grass, with the passing coffin, presumably carrying Lincoln's body. Indeed, after the president's body lay i n state i n Washington, the coffin made a marathon 1,600-mile journey from the Capitol, beginning A p r i l 21 and ending with its interment in Springfield, Illinois on M a y 4, 1865. The speaker recounts this journey in section six, and the nation's observance o f its passage, "With the pomp o f the  - 140-  Chapter IV inloop'd flags and the cities draped in black, / W i t h the show o f the States themselves as of crape-veil'd women standing" ( W L L  35-6).  The States and cities, attired i n black, are a  mirror o f their people; indeed, for Whitman, as for his speaker, the nation was no more nor any less than its people—the people who run for office, the people who vote and elect representatives, the people who carry on the daily business o f commerce and trade, the people who drive the omnibuses and sail the ferries, the carpenters and farmers, earning an honest living. In this section, then, we see two aspects o f the heart o f the nation; the people who form the nation, and their honouring o f the dead president whom they elected, and who had led them through the trials o f civil war to unification. Section six ends with the speaker giving a sprig o f the perennial lilac to the passing coffin, suggesting this gesture might somehow signify eternal life through translation into other forms, as with many o f the other symbols o f growth following death throughout Leaves of Grass. However, it is in section seven that the full implications o f the lilac's perenniality are explored, and in which the speaker blurs the distinction between the two aspects o f the nation—the people and their president. H e addresses the president's coffin:  (Nor for you, for one alone, Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring, For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O sane and sacred death.  A l l over bouquets o f roses,  -141-  Chapter IV O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies, But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first, Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes, W i t h loaded arms I come, pouring for you, For you and the coffins all o f you O death.) ( W L L 46-54)  The "blossoms and branches" the speaker brings are not only for the coffin o f the fallen president, but for all coffins, for all the nation's dead, and for all those yet to die in the natural course o f their lives. B y this time, immediately following the end o f the C i v i l War, the nation's death toll had touched its entire people. To return to the epic and cyclical nature o f the poem's first lines, it is evident that the cycle o f mourning does not belong to the speaker alone, but to all those affected by the war's losses, and in this context, the nation's mourning is truly epic in proportion. For these dead, the speaker brings symbols o f continuing life, "fresh as the morning" in the face o f death. Roses and lilies are both perennial, as are lilacs, which are among the earliest to bloom in spring. Lilacs, then, are the first sign that life is persistent; it can and w i l l continue after the war, after the war's deaths, after the death o f the national leader. H a v i n g risen from among the people, the president is a representative o f the people, who observe his death, as when the star "droop'd from the sky low down as i f to my side, (while the other stars all look'd on)" ( S L 59), but who w i l l endure and persist despite the loss o f their leader, and despite their many personal losses. In the face o f this national loss, both o f the president and o f many citizens, the poet articulates his task and role as one o f mourning on behalf o f the nation, and o f  -142-  Chapter IV bringing the nation to healing. This is developed throughout sections nine and ten o f the poem, where the speaker returns to the singing thrush, and then describes his own role as solitary singer:  O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved? A n d how shall I deck m y song for the large sweet soul that has gone? A n d what shall m y perfume be for the grave o f h i m I love?  Sea-winds blown from east and west, B l o w n from the Eastern sea and b l o w n from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting, These and with these and the breath o f m y chant, I'll perfume the grave o f him I love. ( W L L 71-7)  If there is one section i n "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" that compresses the most dynamic meaning, it is section ten. Its integration o f meanings is made possible through the poem's carefully constructed cohesive ties, both internally, and to other poems and meanings i n Leaves of Grass. Through repetition, the speaker draws a distinct analogy between his own poetic song, his warbling, and the "warbling" hermit thrush ( W L L 19). This seems natural following the introduction o f the bird in section four as inhabiting the material-spiritual borderland o f the swamp, as the poet moves between the world o f appearances and the truth o f the soul. The poet's role is to sing for the fallen leader; his song is a gift, a "perfume" for "the grave o f h i m I love." However, it is also a  - 143-  Chapter IV gift for the nation's dead. H i s song emerges on the sea winds from both oceans flanking the United States, to bathe the entire nation i n their fluid and atmospheric spiritual balm, converging on the prairies—likely a reference to Lincoln's burial site in Illinois, but also the logical meeting point for winds travelling toward each other from both seas. Throughout this analysis, the  sea and the  atmosphere  have  been  discussed  as  metaphorical access points to the spiritual realm, constructed at length through many consistent lexical ties. Emerging from these charged spiritual origins, the breath o f the speaker's chant parallels the "perfume strong" ( W L L 14) o f the lilacs on the coffin. In cohesively binding these symbols together through this repetition, both symbols take on additional meaning; the lilac's perfume now hints at a spiritual meaning, while the speaker's song integrates the cycle o f renewal o f the "perennial" lilac ( W L L 5). Thus, the song o f the thrush and the song o f the speaker are equated, the perfume o f the lilac and the perfume o f the speaker's chant are equated, and the president (one among the nation's people) and the land are equated; this song becomes a chant o f spiritual healing and o f renewal in the face o f death, intended for the nation, and for all o f the people who form the nation. Following this, the speaker's contemplation o f appropriate images to adorn the president's tomb, in section eleven, only works to affirm and strengthen the bond between president and landscape. The poet's proposed images reflect both the w i l d land and the cities o f the American landscape. The sunset shines across this landscape, and the nation's people are "homeward returning" ( W L L 88) at the end o f the workday, not pitching tents in the battlefield. This is the Lincoln's legacy; a united nation at peace, budding i n the springtime with the "fresh sweet herbage underfoot"—the "uniform hieroglyphic," or  - 144-  Chapter IV universal signifier o f the grass, "Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones" ( S M 106-7). The nation is preparing to flower into its full potential; more importantly, the life o f the nation and its people continues, even thrives, despite the influence o f death. Finally, in section twelve, the speaker integrates his own identity (and thus the thrush's identity as well), with the president, the people, and the land:  L o , body and soul—this land, M y own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships, The varied and ample land, the South and the North i n the light, Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri, A n d ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass and corn. ( W L L 8992)  Though the speaker does not lay claim to the entirety o f the States, he integrates his identity implicitly into this nexus o f already linked identities. He juxtaposes his vision o f body and soul with the sight o f the land, as though the land itself is a manifestation o f the souls o f those who inhabit it; then he proceeds to include his own soul b y specifying his own land, Manhattan—the only city mentioned by name. H i s identity becomes merged with that o f the nation's people, with the president, and with the nation's landscape. This dynamic merging would not be possible i f not for the speaker's consistent disembodiment and displacement, which I have explored throughout this project. The speaker's identity has become so consistently fluid that when he proposes to merge with the entire nation,  -145-  Chapter IV all o f its people, and its president simultaneously, integrating his role as translator o f the spiritual realm, his role as guide and teacher, his role as celebrator o f the president, the nation, its people, and o f death, the reader can accept the dichotomy o f the concurrent utter loss o f the speaker's identity and the translation o f this identity into one that encompasses all o f these elements. Indeed, this is the process to which the rest o f the poem devotes explanation. In section fourteen, the speaker's contemplation o f daily life leads h i m to realize that humanity is bound i n common by death, much as it is by sleep i n "The Sleepers." Death appears as a cloud that falls upon all people, including the speaker. W i t h the appearance o f this cloud in his vision, the speaker learns death's "thought, and the sacred knowledge o f death" ( W L L 119). A s three companions, they travel to the swamp where the thrush sings the carol o f death. The beginning o f the carol itself, however, is immediately preceded by the speaker's remark, "the voice o f m y spirit tallied the song o f the bird" ( W L L 134), rendering it impossible to determine whether the song that follows belongs to the thrush or the poet, or both. Is this song the poet's translation o f the thrush's song? Or, is it his own voice, singing with that o f the thrush? In fact, he and the bird become interchangeable. Indeed, the end o f the song is concluded with a reinforcement o f this ambiguity: "To the tally o f m y soul, / Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird, / W i t h pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night" ( W L L 163-5). In the first reference, the speaker's soul tallies, or keeps up with the bird; i n the second, the leadership is reversed. In these lines it seems the duet o f death is sung by both, that neither has ownership o f the song, but they share it between them.  - 146-  Chapter IV While I w i l l not discuss the song itself at great length, it is, in brief, a praise o f death as a soothing release from life, an integration and merging o f the individual soul and identity with death itself, a purely spiritual medium: "I joyously sing the dead, / Lost in the loving floating ocean o f thee, / Laved in the flood o f thy bliss O death" ( W L L 14850). In these lines, the individual souls o f the dead become like droplets o f water in the oceans o f the soul. This is "the float, forever held in solution" (62) from which individual souls emerge in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Until they are embodied, none  are  identifiable, and all are i n utter bliss, in immediate contact with all other souls. Indeed, this image o f spiritual merger parallels the merger o f identities developed throughout this poem. Thus, the poem itself is an articulation and representation o f death, o f the entwined spiritual remnants left when the physical realm is abandoned. I would suggest that while the comprehension o f the place o f death in the eternal cycle o f death and renewal corresponds with the thought o f death, the sacred knowledge o f death is discovered here; while death corresponds with a loss o f identity, it also corresponds with an adoption o f universal identity, the full integration and assimilation o f the individual soul with the cosmic soul-force o f the universe. Death ultimately permits the unfettered merger o f the individual into the oceans o f soul. This theme is revived in " A Noiseless Patient Spider."  4.4 T H E C O S M I C P O E T C O N F R O N T I N G H I S C O S M O S : " A N O I S E L E S S P A T I E N T S P I D E R "  W h i l e "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd" consider the speaker's place in his nation, " A Noiseless Patient Spider" examines the place o f the individual soul in the cosmic scheme. L i k e "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," " A Noiseless Patient Spider" also features central characters  - 147-  Chapter IV other than the speaker's self, which is expressed in the first person. Moreover, these characters, the spider and the speaker's soul, are also implicitly linked to the self o f the speaker. The spider may not seem like a figure appropriate as a symbol for the poet, yet like the calamus grass and the thrush, the spider also embodies some aspect o f the poet's function. The calamus grass, itself a leaf like the poet's incarnation o f himself in his leaves o f poetry, stands like the poet in the merger o f earth and water, material and spiritual. The thrush emerges from this border zone, the marsh, and sings songs only some w i l l understand, songs that address the spiritual and material, and the transition and connections between the two. Both o f these symbols address characteristics and aspects o f the poet and his poetry that are readily grasped. The leaves are the poems written down, the songs are the poems proclaimed to all, and the situation o f both symbols is in a place o f earthly and spiritual merger. Meanwhile, the spider is noiseless, on a promontory, exploring the empty space around itself. These do not seem like traits o f the poet, and there are none o f the typical markers o f the poetic function to interpret the spiritual and material worlds—no water, no air, no border zones. However, the speaker's comparison o f the spider to his o w n soul in the second verse should be an important clue that the two are in fact significantly connected. The spider is an atypical symbol for the poet because Whitman is examining here a slightly different aspect o f the poet's function. In symbols for the poet considered throughout this thesis, the chief roles o f the poet were translator and guide, interpreting the spiritual world for those who cannot see it, and starting the willing along the path toward their own enlightenment. The speaker in these poems is confident that his audience is with him, he addresses us as though we are doing our best to follow and to learn. H e leads us on, sometimes seductively, other times with  - 148-  Chapter IV great enthusiasm. In contrast, the spider reveals a poet struggling to find his audience. The addressee in " A Noiseless Patient Spider" is the speaker's soul, not his readers. H e finds the spider throwing out filaments i n search o f a connection, i n search o f something in reach. In the same way, he sees and addresses his soul:  A n d you O m y soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans o f space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, T i l l the bridge you w i l l need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold, T i l l the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O m y soul. (NPS 610)  L i k e the spider, the speaker's soul is detached, separated from the world b y these "measureless oceans o f space," and like the spider, the speaker's soul is patiently trying to bridge this gap. But what are these threads the poet's soul flings, and where does he hope they w i l l catch? Both the spider and the speaker's threads are gossamer—flimsy, light, and carried by the breeze—and ductile anchors—malleable, but weighty and steadfast. Moreover, the speaker's soul is also described as "surrounded"—is it surrounded b y space, or is it surrounded by other drops i n the ocean, other souls i n the spiritual medium? The word "oceans," with its cumulative spiritualized meaning, constructed by cohesive ties throughout Leaves of Grass, should immediately alert the reader that this is not simply an expression indicating the vastness o f space. The language Whitman selected  -149-  Chapter IV for this second part o f the poem was carefully chosen for its duality. A soul that is surrounded but detached struggles to make connections that are fragile and flexible, but which also have solid foundations and the ability to endure. The duality o f these terms certainly lends itself to understanding the poet as an individual soul struggling to reach the souls around it through his poetry; ephemeral songs, not vocalized, but captured silently in writing, like the noiseless spider producing its lines; poems recorded i n lines o f pen and pencil, in spidery handwriting on flimsy, light leaves o f paper; poems holding enduring meanings flexible enough to cross time and space, to reach into the souls o f individuals separated by vast spatial and temporal distances and take anchor there. Careful readers might object that the speaker specifically states his soul is "seeking the spheres to connect them," but this is another instance o f dual meaning. Certainly, the speaker's soul is on a quest to chart the nature and structure o f the cosmos, and to understand his own place i n it. However, the spheres, the worlds, he seeks can also be understood once again as the realms o f human experience—the material and earthly, and the spiritual oceans o f space. This interpretation o f the poem is a product o f reading and understanding it in the way Whitman teaches us to read his work throughout Leaves of Grass, that is, to interpret it through the cumulative meaning o f the web o f cohesive ties attached to specific, significant words—the hieroglyphs that are the key, or code, to their own interpretation. This method o f reading reveals the layers o f meaning constructed by the poet to interact with each other and to act upon the reader. For instance, we have established that the spider stands for the poet's soul, i n search o f connection. However, by the same relationship, the soul o f the poet can represent the spider. In establishing the spider as a  - 150-  Chapter I V symbol for the soul, it takes on all o f the divine properties o f the soul, and reflects the perfection o f the soul's divinity and its rightful place in the cosmic scheme. B y extension, the spider might represent the divinity o f any soul. This hearkens back to the interchangeability o f parts o f the cosmos discussed in Chapter II, as each part has a claim to the natural perfection o f the whole. Similarly, the poet's soul adopts the spider's behaviour in searching for connection. Thus, this metaphor reveals the essential loneliness o f the individual human experience, as each o f us searches for connections with other souls surrounding us. The specificity o f the word "connection" is important, as it reinforces the theme o f Chapter III, the struggle o f the individual to connect with others, sometimes undertaken through physical contact, but always oriented toward the development o f an intellectual or spiritual bond. Again, the importance o f bodily contact is implicitly subsumed by the essential human need for profound connection. Moreover, given the connections previously drawn between the spiritual function o f the soul and the democratic function o f the individual, in the analysis o f "Crossing B r o o k l y n Ferry" and "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd," the relationship o f spider and soul to the cosmos certainly also has some material-world implications. Democratic government, as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau explained i n Du Contrat Social (1762), relies on the general w i l l o f the populace. Certainly, to form any conception o f the general w i l l , individual members o f a democracy must understand their individual wills with respect to the individual wills o f the people around them. T o understand one's place in this kind o f social system requires an awareness o f other individuals and a bond with them through participation i n the state and its government. In short, it requires the individual to partake in the patient practice o f the spider—to build bridges, forge connections, and take part in  -151-  Chapter IV weaving and maintaining webs  o f ideology. It requires  understanding  between  individuals and political parties. It requires a fundamental identification with others on the basic levels at which we are all the same. For Whitman, this takes place on the spiritual level, where all souls are equally valid, righteous, and divine in their respective places in the cosmic scheme. In addition to considering the place o f the poet in his nation and the spiritual foundations o f democracy, the three poems analysed in this chapter address multiple dichotomies i n the human experience. These include the pairing o f the material and spiritual realms, o f life and death, sound and silence, and individual identity and merger. A l l o f these pairings are implicitly linked throughout "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd," and " A Noiseless Patient Spider." They ultimately point to the fundamental isolation o f the individual, and its search for connection on all levels o f its existence: in Chapter III we explored personal connections, and i n this chapter we considered social and political union through democracy, as well as the soul's fundamental quest for connection, with its ultimate resolution i n death.  -152-  Chapter V CHAPTER V - CONCLUSION  This chapter considers the end o f Leaves of Grass, Long!" A s the last poem in Leaves  of Grass,  through the final poem, "So  it provides a summary o f the speaker's  themes, and his final parting thoughts. This chapter also provides a summary o f this thesis, and proposes a unified theory for reading and understanding the volume o f poetry as fundamentally concerned with spirituality. This chapter also provides a summary o f the chief conclusions o f this thesis regarding the stylistic characterization o f the speaker, the speaker's overarching cosmological understanding o f his body and soul, the material and spiritual world, and life and the afterlife. Moreover, this chapter strives to situate this project as part o f a larger investigation into Whitman's stylistics and rhetoric as a national poet.  5.1 P A R T I N G W O R D S : " S O L O N G ! "  In the final edition published under his supervision, Whitman's Leaves of began with a cluster o f poems called Inscriptions,  Grass  followed by "Starting from Paumanok"  and "Song o f Myself," and ended, as it had since 1860, with "So Long!" For Whitman, the expression "so long" was a characteristically American way o f saying goodbye, and the poem represented the end o f a cycle that began with dedications, a portrayal o f the speaker's birth and starting out, and a portrayal o f his rebirth as a poet. The poem, "So Long!" ends this cycle by staging the poet's death. Between this beginning and the end, we have considered the speaker's presentation o f himself, his interactions with the individuals around h i m and with his audience, and the parallel relationship he has with  - 153-  Chapter V his nation and his cosmos. In the final poem, the speaker announces what is to come, portrays himself planting the seeds for this future, and finally enacts his death. Critics have considered the poem in terms of its relationship to the war, with reference to the eugenics movement gaining popularity in the nineteenth century, and with respect to the poem's vivid, onanistic sexuality. Some critics, like Hutchinson, have read "So Long!" as a poem that stages the final union between the poet, his book, and the reader (134-5), while others insist that this union is ultimately denied. Burton Hatlen, for instance, points out that the speaker's "language reveals that this union can come only through and in language, so that the fusion o f person and book ends by generating a new and endless indeterminacy" ('"So Long!' (I860)" 649). M y interpretation reaches a similar conclusion. The poem begins with a section devoted to announcements, where the speaker declares the things to come. He anticipates that America w i l l do "what was promis'd" ( S L 4) and become fully spiritual in nature. This eventual transformation w i l l be achieved "When through these States walk a hundred millions o f superb persons, / W h e n the rest part away for superb persons and contribute to them" ( S L 5-6). This is an instance o f millennialism,  which  Kuebrich  explains as  the  anticipation o f an  development and growth, when the nation reaches perfection (Minor  endpoint  Prophecy  of 34).  However, this seems to contradict the notion, explored in Chapter I V , that the essential spirituality o f the perfect cosmic scheme is already fully manifested. Readers must bear in mind that the full fruition o f the American nation relies on the spiritual development o f its people. A s the speaker notes in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," our experience o f life depends on how we choose to play our daily role, "the same old role, the role that is what  -154-  Chapter V we make it, as great as we like, / Or as small as we like, or both great and small" (84-5). Certainly, the evidence suggested to Whitman that most people were not ready for his poetry. H e was persecuted for obscenity, fired from his clerkship i n the Indian Office in 1865 after notes for his poetry were found i n his desk, he had a difficult time finding publishers willing to take on Leaves  of Grass,  for, once printed, the volumes were  difficult to sell, with many booksellers refusing to carry a text deemed obscene. The reviews o f the book i n newspapers were often just as unfriendly, calling attention to the book's discussion o f the body and largely ignoring the linked and corresponding discussion o f the soul. America could only do "what was promis'd" when people were socially prepared to accept his text, explore his meanings, and interpret it as a coherent whole. Thus, there is no less perfection in the nation itself, or in its people, at any given time. Rather, the question is whether or not each individual is prepared to accept h i m or herself as a whole, and to accept his or her own divinity, and whether a critical mass can be reached to shift social opinion about the human self. Whitman's vision remains one for the future. A glance at television advertising reveals that most people remain unhappy with themselves. W h i l e the body and sex may be much more liberated i n this era o f discarded social mores, they have become spiritual voids. The struggle persists to be fitter, sexier, healthier, more financially successful, more personally successful, and more psychologically successful. The spiritual selfacceptance Whitman encourages is discussed i n terms o f one's inner child, inner animal, or karma, primarily in self-help books. V e r y few can affirm a spiritual consciousness that is not in opposition to the activities o f society; the buying, selling, bargaining economy o f  -155-  Chapter V objects, values, and people. Few could truthfully say, "I am, I live, I love, I see, I connect," with all the meaning Whitman's speaker gives to these activities. The logical conclusion is that the speaker's announcement pertains to a time when readers  will  understand  him.  This  understanding  will  involve  a  necessary  acknowledgement o f the place o f the world o f appearances within the spiritual realm, o f the reader's own divinity, and the divinity o f all human beings around h i m or her. These are themes are appropriately summarized i n this final poem, and it is remarkable to note the emphasis the speaker places on the identity and unity o f the States. This may have much to do with the U n i o n goals in the war, but certainly also reflects the distinctiveness and unity o f the American idea—that a nation should be governed b y its people. The poet writes, "I announce that the identity o f these States is a single identity only, / I announce the U n i o n more and more compact, indissoluble, /1 announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics o f the earth insignificant" ( S L 19-21). The notion that "The identity o f these states is a single identity only" presents another example o f the slipperiness between individual and nation observed in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." W h i l e this can express the unification o f the States, which was certainly a concern at the time o f the poem's first publication in 1860, under the shadow of the impending C i v i l War, it can also express the notion that America takes its identity from the American individuals who form the nation. Together, their common ideas and ideals—and presumably their shared sense o f divinity, as "superb persons"—form a unified nation and a single identity. These are the superb persons for whom, says the speaker, "I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I sung, and the songs o f life and death, / A n d the songs o f birth, and shown that there are many births" ( S L 10-1).  - 156-  Chapter V This announcement o f his themes, along with, "I announce adhesiveness" ( S L 22), "I announce the justification o f candor and the justification o f pride" ( S L 18), and "I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste, affectionate, compassionate, fully arm'd" ( S L 25), recapitulates the chief aims and objectives o f Leaves  of  Grass.  Throughout the text, the speaker has developed the idea o f a natural, full-bodied, American person, able to see beyond the world o f appearances to the underlying spiritual realm, able to integrate body and soul, the tribulations o f history, and the cycle o f life and death into a comprehensive cosmic worldview. This person, for which the speaker provides himself as a model—"I have offer'd m y style to every one" ( S L 12)—is candid and bold, righteously proud, and connected with his fellow human beings through common bonds o f affection, understanding, and spirituality. A nation o f such individuals constitutes the "splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics o f the earth insignificant" ( S L 21). These individuals pass through the cycle o f life to eventually "lightly and joyfully meet [their] translation" ( S L 27), just as the speaker anticipates his end, and the end o f his poems, with the expectation o f being translated into other forms i n other spheres. The middle section o f the poem, where the speaker is confronted by his own death, describes his final efforts to get his message across. In a highly eroticized passage, he recounts how he establishes his message as one to be transmitted well into the future:  Screaming electric, the atmosphere using, A t random glancing, each as I notice absorbing, Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,  - 157-  Chapter V Curious envelop'd messages delivering, Sparkles hot, seed ethereal down in the dirt dropping, M y s e l f unknowing, m y commission obeying, to question it never daring, To ages and ages yet the growth o f the seed leaving, To troops out o f the war arising, they the tasks I have set promulging,  [...] So I pass, a little time vocal, visible, contrary, Afterward a melodious echo, passionately bent for, (death making me really undying,) The best o f me then when no longer visible, for toward that I have been incessantly preparing. ( S L 36-48)  The electricity i n the first line calls to mind the body (electric), while the atmosphere calls to mind the soul. In a line powerfully suggestive o f the masturbatory act, according to most critics, his messages are portrayed as hot "seed ethereal down i n the dirt dropping." Indeed, Burton Hatlen questions whether this masturbatory act is onanistic and fruitless, or whether it brings the dirt into life ('"So Long!' (I860)" 648-9). Certainly, by this point i n the text, the alignment o f his underlying messages with sexuality, or "to ages and ages yet the [spiritual] growth o f the [ethereal] seed leaving," through the bodily, should not be surprising to readers. W e are left to imagine these seeds sprouting into leaves o f grass, and more precisely, into the leaves o f his poetry. These lines are a uniting o f his major purpose and major metaphors: the procreative act o f spreading an idea is cast i n terms both bodily and spiritual, and committed to the ages through the  -158-  Chapter V allusion to the universal signifier, the grass. Moreover, the speaker specifies that he leaves the growth o f these seeds to "troops out o f the war arising." This can be read as a reference to the Americans living i n the Union, following the C i v i l War, implying the relevance o f his themes to the American democracy o f the future. However, it could also be a simple reference to the army o f his followers. In either case, the speaker indicates that these troops are responsible for promulging the tasks he has set. "Promulging" is a very specific word, as it has a dual meaning o f both publishing (a book) and teaching publicly (a creed, doctrine, or opinion). B y this the speaker aims to ensure the continued republication o f his volume o f leaves, and also to ensure that his creed continues to be taught well beyond his own anticipated end. Thus can he transform into a melodious echo, to resonate forever in the hearts and minds o f those who listen. Indeed, the best o f him is his disembodied, spiritual self, which he can only truly give through his words when his physical body has ceased to exits. However, this is not truly his end, for he readily admits he w i l l endure through his message forever, through its transmission, republication, and teaching, and also through his death, his translation into other forms. This brings us to the final portion o f the poem. Having portrayed his final effort to plant the seeds for a fundamentally spiritual democracy, the poet abandons his songs, becomes disembodied and momentarily grants his reader a final instance o f elusive contact:  Camerado, this is no book, Who touches this touches a man, (Is it night? are we here together alone?)  - 159-  Chapter V It is I you hold and who holds you, I spring from the pages into your arms—decease calls me forth.  0 how your fingers drowse me, Y o u r breath falls around me like dew, your pulse lulls the tympans o f m y ears, 1 feel immerged from head to foot, Delicious, enough. ( S L 53-61)  The yet uninitiated "comrade," or reader, o f "Whoever Y o u A r e Holding M e N o w i n Hand" is here replaced by the term Whitman applies with reference to G o d i n "Song o f Myself." This is o f course appropriate, as by this time, the reader is no longer unaware o f the spiritual implications o f Whitman's poetry. If the speaker's seeds have begun to sprout, the reader is likely conscious o f his or her own spiritual growth at this point i n the reading. The speaker again affirms that his book is not merely words alone, but an incarnation o f himself. He describes his contact with his reader i n the moment o f his decease, the end o f his poem. A s one dead, he becomes disembodied and can spring from the pages; also, when he finishes speaking, his words can spring forth from the pages to live i n the imagination and memory o f his readers. He also describes the influence o f the reader upon him, which can be interpreted as a spiritual experience, or as a reader turning pages o f the book. In either case, the reader's touch is specifically connected to the fluid imagery o f spiritual waters once again. Drowse is a term Whitman employed regularly i n connection with the sea, though in itself it is indicative o f the place between sleep and  - 160-  Chapter V waking, the sort o f trance o f the shaman as he crosses the boundaries between the material and spiritual realms. In addition, breath is transformed into "dew," and the speaker describes himself as "immerged," implying both immersion and merger, as in the holy bath o f the reader's breath, perhaps as he or she reads the poem aloud. Nevertheless, just as quickly, the speaker then abandons the reader. This shift is logical i f we recall the sacred knowledge o f death discovered in "When Lilacs Last i n the Dooryard Bloom'd." Death is an opportunity for merger not permitted by embodiment, but is not lasting—the speaker quickly loses his identity in the ocean o f soul.  An  unknown sphere more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long!  Remember m y words, I may again return, I love you, I depart from materials, I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead. ( S L 68-71)  Both the living and the dying often express a wish to be remembered as individuals, but rarely are we asked, as we attend the deathbed o f a dear, departing friend, for instance, to remember his or her words alone. This recalls the speaker's earlier emphasis on his message, the seeds o f which he has so carefully planted throughout Leaves of Grass. In the final two lines, the speaker again confirms the motifs I have traced throughout this thesis. H e indicates his departure from materials alone, not from the spiritual realm. H e may be leaving the world o f appearances, but he continues on in unknown spheres o f the cosmic scheme. A s well, he departs from his material incarnation in the form o f his book,  -161-  Chapter V the reading being finished. Moreover, he almost confirms his disembodiment in the final line, "I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead." Through the use o f "as," he is able to escape committing even to his own disembodiment and death. Readers are left at the end o f their journey with the speaker's poems echoing about in their minds, with a sense o f contact and understanding with the speaker, with a sense o f their own divinity, and with no idea where the. speaker is situated. In our imaginations, he may be alive and well, incarnated i n his book, or he may be translated into other forms. What remains most important is that he, and his message, live and thrive in the reader's memory, gradually transforming the reader through his words.  5.2  S U M M A R Y AND CONCLUSIONS  I began this project by calling to attention the apparent contradiction between the poet o f the body and the poet o f the soul, between the American bard and his disembodied, de-situated speaker. The chief claim o f m y thesis is that this contradiction is a key indication o f the foundational importance o f spirituality to Whitman's poetic project. This is manifested in four chief forms throughout Whitman's poetry. First, the poet is involved in a process o f translation. This is the consistent and directed revision and elaboration o f meaning i n language to produce a structure o f meaning and metaphor that exceeds simple denotation and conventional connotations. Next, the poet seeks to disembody and de-situate his voice. He achieves this through a careful representation o f his consciousness, often using non-specific linguistic positioning indicators, or the immediate mode o f discourse, which suggests a physically impossible copresence with his audience. Third, when the speaker makes reference to his specific physical or  -162-  Chapter V temporal placement, he consistently chooses to represent himself i n liminal spaces. Frequently, these spaces are between defined physical locations, or they are at symbolic sites o f merger between the physical, material world o f appearances and the ethereal, spiritual world o f cosmic awareness. In combination, the disembodiment and symbolic positioning o f the speaker allow h i m access to the spiritual realm, which he translates for his readers i n an effort to connect with them intellectually and spiritually, and to encourage them to develop their own spiritual vision. Finally, through his death, dissipation, and merger with the essential spiritual nature o f the cosmos, the poet achieves the connection he seeks throughout his volume o f poetry. The exploration o f these strategies has led to the development o f a unified theory for the interpretation o f Leaves  of Grass.  The proposal o f a unified theory o f  interpretation seeks to reconcile some o f the contradictions mentioned. This theory proceeds from the dual premise that spiritual themes are essential to the nature o f Leaves of Grass,  and that Whitman's chief objective in writing poetry is to lead his readers  toward a spiritual understanding o f their human experience. It is founded on the belief that the material and spiritual realms coexist and interact continuously, and that human comprehension o f an organized, coherent  cosmic scheme is possible within  the  framework o f material, temporal life. This theory proposes the innate divinity o f the human as a whole being, comprised o f both body and soul, and insists upon the human ability to recognize its own transcendent nature. The ability to conceive o f one's own divinity and place i n the cosmic whole is one that can be developed through a shift in one's perception o f the world o f appearances. The poet consistently portrays this paradigm shift as coming upon h i m i n a moment o f enlightenment, though the  -163-  Chapter V circumstances may vary. However, the circumstances are always linked to physical or metaphysical sites o f crossover between the material and spiritual realms. Through his poetry, the speaker strives to interpret his access to the spiritual realm for his readers, evidently i n the hope that this w i l l spark some sympathetic aspect o f their perception and understanding o f the world, leading them to develop their own cosmic awareness. In the process o f examining these general premises o f Whitman's project as a whole, I have also drawn many conclusions regarding specific poems. Although I have only included a sampling o f Whitman's poetry and focused m y selections around only a few o f his chief themes, I believe it is an effective demonstration o f the potential to consider all o f his poetry in light o f its underlying spiritual themes. I organized m y selections into three main segments, the speaker and his conception o f his self, the speaker's interpersonal relationships, and the speaker's interaction with his nation and cosmos. In the first chapter, I provided an account o f some o f the key events i n Whitman's life that contributed both to his developing worldview and to shaping the themes we encounter i n his poetry. I also provided a summary o f major currents i n Whitman criticism and situated m y own research with respect to three approaches to Whitman's writings: the  stylistic approach  (Hollis, Nathanson, Warren), the anthropological  approach, concerned particularly with spirituality (Hutchinson, Kuebrich), and the deconstructive approach (Moon). Finally, I provided an overview o f m y methodology, which incorporates an analysis o f cohesion ( M . A . K . Halliday) and flow o f consciousness (Wallace Chafe) in Whitman's poetry.  -164-  Chapter V M y analysis began i n Chapter II, where I strove to offer a comprehensive exploration o f the speaker's origins, his growth as a poet, his understanding o f himself, and o f his aims i n his poetic project. I illustrated that the speaker can be characterized primarily by his disembodiment and de-situation. This is an essential trait that enables h i m to translate the spiritual realm for his readers, whose realm o f perception is limited to the material world. I established that the chief aim o f the speaker's chants is to set the reader upon his or her own path toward enlightenment, toward the realization o f his or her divine nature. In Chapters III and I V , I explored some o f the ways i n which the speaker perceives and articulates the connections between the spiritual and material worlds. M o r e particularly, I considered the speaker's representation o f the spiritual world through interpersonal relationships i n the third chapter, and through social and cosmological interactions i n the fourth. The exploration o f these relationships reveals a great deal about the speaker's understanding o f the place o f the physical, material world o f appearances i n an individual's daily life as well as his or her spiritual life. H e translates mundane activities, viewing them through the lens o f their corresponding spiritual significance, and arrives at a vision o f the human experience as one that is simultaneously deeply meaningful, and also very lonely. Thus, he explores human contact and political systems as manifestations o f the need to connect with other souls; a need only ultimately satisfied through death and the merger o f the individual soul with the en masse. This is finally achieved in the final poem, "So L o n g ! " considered earlier i n this chapter.  -165-  Chapter V 5.3  FURTHER RESEARCH  This thesis is a major step forward i n the investigation o f the public voice and national rhetorical consciousness fundamental to Whitman's poetry. Whitman's speaker's championing o f individualism is a challenge to his authenticity and authority as an everyman-figure and national poet. This leads to important questions regarding the qualities o f a national voice, some o f which I've addressed throughout this thesis. For instance, m y consideration o f Whitman's portrayal o f the body and soul illustrates the poet's belief that man becomes divine even through his earthly interactions. In rendering even "The scent o f these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer" ( S M 515), Whitman transforms his eroticized corporeal discourse into a spiritual one more acceptable to the sensibilities o f his nation and era as public expression. Thus, while this supports the understanding o f Whitman as a poet o f the divine, it also contributes to our understanding o f Whitman as a democratic poet, expressive o f a national voice. While Whitman's poetry emerges  from  a tradition o f oratory and public  performance and is linked to his great public themes o f democracy and nation-building, his stylistics o f a public national consciousness continues to be relevant i n the context o f today's American oratory. M a n y questions i n this regard remain unanswered. H o w do voices in public arenas inspire national confidence? What constitutes an authentic national voice today? Where does the poet's voice fit i n the public discourse o f the modern age? What is the place o f religion, or spirituality, in national public discourse? M a n y readers and critics prefer to take a secular approach to considering Whitman. This is logical, given the increasing secularization o f western society. But it is important to remember that a religious aspect to life was important in the nineteenth  -166-  Chapter V century, and as much as some may wish to ignore it, religion continues to perform important cultural work, both in the United States and in the global community. Evidence exists in the news media around us: i n the United States, the debate over high schools teaching theories o f creation or evolution, or both and others, caused brief but notable stirs in the popular media in 2004 and 2005. Moreover, although the world conflicts i n which the U . S . has participated in recent years have been presented as political or humanitarian causes, it is clear that many o f them are aligned with not only economic interests, but also with ideologies closely associated to specific religious worldviews. Indeed, the convergence between religion and politics is longstanding i n the United States. Religious historian James H . Hutson points out that the American Revolutionary W a r was strongly supported b y the clergy at the time. H e believes that had they not presented the war as part o f God's design, it would never have been successful. Moreover, he suggests the clergy supported the cause because they were the educated class, in touch with the European political theory o f the time, and therefore, the first to be alarmed by the taxation o f the colonies—the chief political issue underlying the war. H e explains that they related current events to the Bible and charged a political cause with biblical righteousness:  Clergymen were, o f course, the real virtuosi i n putting political events into a biblical context. B y continually comparing George III and his ministers to  such  familiar—and hateful—biblical figures  as  Rehoboam  and  Pharaoh's taskmasters, they personalized and intensified the quarrel with Britain for their listeners. A s the final rupture with the mother country  - 167-  Chapter V approached, preachers o f all denominations painted the lurid picture o f Britain as the Beast in Revelations 13 who would annihilate the children o f God. The conflict was now presented from the pulpits as a cosmic battle between good and evil in which no Christian could be neutral. The man in the pew must put on his gospel armor and take the field against his foe. (Hutson 42)  This rhetoric is by no means unfamiliar to Americans today. U . S . President George W . Bush applied it in his 2002State o f the Union Address. W i t h reference to the countries out o f which the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States originated, Bush declared, "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis o f evil, arming to threaten the peace o f the world." Later in his speech, he also affirmed, "I know we can overcome evil with greater good," and "Those o f us who have lived through these challenging times have been changed b y them. We've come to know truths that we w i l l never question: evil is real, and it must be opposed" (Bush). W h i l e I do not aim to undermine the American concern with terrorism, many astute observers agree that the conflicts currently underway in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the tensions between the United States and many o f the countries that form this "axis o f evil" are o f a primarily political nature. Nevertheless, this portrayal o f this conflict and tension i n terms o f the battle between good and evil has definitive biblical resonances. The political "War on Terror," from the start, has been infused with religious rhetoric. Thus, the present moment seems opportune to reconsider the connections between the individual, the democratic polity, and the spiritual ideology Whitman conveys i n his poetry.  - 168-  BIBLIOGRAPHY  Arakelian, Paul G . "Personality and Style: Options in Nineteenth-Century American Poetry." Language  and Style 24.2 (1991): 239-250.  Bradley, Sculley and Harold W . Blodgett. Introduction. Whitman x x v i i - l i i . Bush, George W . "President Delivers State o f the Union Address." 29 January 2002. The White House, Office o f the Press Secretary. 8 Jan 2007 < news/releases/2002/01/20020129-ll.html>. Chafe, Wallace. Discourse,  Consciousness,  and Time. Chicago & London: U o f Chicago  P, 1994. Clark, Herbert H . Arenas of Language  Use. Chicago & London: U o f Chicago P, 1992.  "Conformity." Oxford English Dictionary, <>. Dean, Susan. "Seeds o f Quakerism at the Roots o f Leaves o f Grass." Walt Quarterly  Whitman  Review 16 (1999): 191-201.  De Tocqueville, A l e x i s . Democracy  in America.  Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett  Publishing Co., Inc., 2000. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Emerson to Whitman, 1855." Whitman 637. E r k k i l a , Betsy and  Cultural  Jay  Grossman, eds.  Breaking  Bounds:  Whitman  and  American  Studies. N e w Y o r k : Oxford U P , 1996.  Erkkila, Betsy. "The Poetics o f Reconstruction: Whitman the Political Poet after the C i v i l War." Whitman 890-900. Folsom, E d , ed. Walt Whitman: The Centennial —. "What a Filthy Presidentiad!" The Virginia  Essays. Iowa City: U o f Iowa P, 1994. Quarterly  - 169-  Review 81.2. (2005): 96-113.  — , ed. Whitman East & West: New Contexts for Reading  Walt Whitman.  Iowa C i t y : U o f  Iowa P, 2002. French, R . W . '"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd' (1865)." LeMaster and Kummings 770-73. Green, Georgia M . Pragmatics  and Natural  Language  Understanding.  Mahwah, N J :  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1996. Griswold, Rufus W . "Untitled." Criterion Archive.  1. 10 November 1855: 24. The Walt  Whitman  Eds. E d Folsom and Kenneth M . Price. 1995-2006. U o f Iowa, U o f  Nebraska-Lincoln, U o f Virginia. 1 Oct. 2006  <  criticism/reviews/index.html>. Path: Leaves o f Grass; Leaves o f Grass (1855); [Rufus W . Griswold]. Criterion 1 (10 November 1855), 24. Grossman, A l l e n . "The Poetics o f U n i o n in Whitman and Lincoln: A n Inquiry toward the Relationship o f Art and Policy." Whitman 872-89. Gutman, Huck. '"I Sing the B o d y Electric' (1855)." LeMaster and Kummings 296-8. Halliday,  M.A.K.  Grammar.  and  Christian M . I . M .  Matthiessen. Introduction  to  Functional  3rd ed. London & N e w Y o r k : Arnold, 2004.  Hatlen, Burton. '"Sleepers, The' (1855)." LeMaster and Kummings 643-6. —. '"So Long!' (I860)." LeMaster and Kummings 648-9. Hollis, C . Carroll. Language  and Style in "Leaves of Grass."  Baton Rouge: Louisiana  State U P , 1983. Hubert, Denise D a w n . "Where's Walt? Situating the Poet-Speaker in his Nation." Street  Review  17/18 (2005). Rutgers U -  Camden, N J . 15 A p r 2007 <http://>.  - 170-  Mickle  Hutchinson, George. The Ecstatic  Whitman:  Literary  Shamanism  & the Crisis  of  the  Union. Columbus, O H : Ohio State U P , 1986. Hutson, James H . Religion  and  the Founding  of the American  Republic.  Washington:  Library o f Congress, 1998. Irwin, John. "Whitman: Hieroglyphic Bibles and Phallic Songs." Whitman 863-72. Kaplan, Justin. Walt Whitman: A Life. N e w Y o r k : Perennial, 2003. Kuebrich,  David.  Minor  Prophecy:  Walt  Whitman's  New  American  Religion.  Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana U P , 1989. —. "Sea, The." LeMaster and Kummings 621-3. LeMaster, J.R. and Donald D . Kummings, eds. Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia.  New  Y o r k & London: Garland Publishing, 1998. Martin, Robert K . '"Whoever Y o u are H o l d i n g M e N o w i n Hand' (I860)." LeMaster and Kummings 789. Maslan, M a r k . Whitman Possessed:  Poetry,  Sexuality  and Popular  Authority.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins U P , 2001. McGarry, M o l l y . "Spectral Sexualities: Nineteenth Century Spiritualism, Moral Panics, and the M a k i n g o f U . S. Obscenity L a w . " Journal  of Women's History  12.2 (2000):  8-29. M i l l e r , James E . Jr. '"Children o f A d a m ' (I860)." LeMaster and Kummings 115-8. M o o n , Michael. Disseminating  Whitman:  Revision  and Corporeality  in Leaves  of  Grass.  Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U P , 1991. — . "The Twenty-Ninth Bather: Identity, Fluidity, Gender, and Sexuality in Section 11 o f 'Song o f M y s e l f . " Whitman 855-63.  -171-  Nathanson, Tenney. Whitman's  Presence:  Body,  Voice, and  Writing  in Leaves  of  Grass.  New Y o r k & London: N e w Y o r k U P , 1992. Noble,  Marianne.  "Whitman's Failures o f Genuine Human  Psychological Approach." Mickle N J . 1 Oct 2006  Contact:  A  Gestalt  Street Review 17/18 (2005). Rutgers U - Camden,  <>.  "Novitiate." Oxford English Dictionary, <>. Plato. The Republic  of Plato.  Trans. Francis MacDonald Cornford. London, Oxford &  N e w Y o r k : Oxford U P , 1990. —.  The Symposium.  Trans. Christopher G i l l . London & N e w Y o r k : Penguin Classics,  1999. Price, Kenneth M . To Walt Whitman, America.  Chapel H i l l , N C : U o f North Carolina P,  2004. Reynolds, D a v i d S. "To Heal a Nation." Whitman 845-49. —.  Walt Whitman's America:  A Cultural  Biography.  N e w Y o r k : Knopf, 1996.  Sanchez-Eppler, Karen. "To Stand Between: Walt Whitman's Poetics o f Merger and Embodiment." Whitman 850-55. Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance:  Communication  and Cognition.  Oxford  U K & Cambridge U S A : Blackwell Publishers Inc., 1995. "Standard." Oxford English Dictionary, <>. Stiles, Bradley J. Emerson's  Location.  Contemporaries  and Kerouac's  Crowd:  A Problem  of Self-  Madison, N J : Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2003.  Warren, James Perrin. Walt  Whitman's  Language  London: Pennsylvania State U P , 1990.  -172-  Experiment.  University Park &  Waskow, Howard J. Whitman: Explorations  in Form.  Chicago & London: U o f Chicago  P, 1966. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass and Other Writings. E d . Michael M o o n . N e w Y o r k & London: W . W . Norton & C o . , 2002. Wilhite, Keith. "His M i n d Was F u l l of Absences: Whitman at the Scene o f Writing." ELH York,  71 (2004): 921-48. Jake  Adam.  "When  Time  Reconsidered." Walt Whitman  and  Quarterly  Place  Avail:  Review  19 (2001): 90-107.  -173-  Whitman's  Written  Orator  


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