In the poem “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman depicts imaginary scenes of significant for any human being notions, such as love, friendship, adorable nature, horrors of war, life, death, and religion. The writing contains a number of love scenes and adorable description of the lovers and their relationships, which make it extremely intimate and erotic. Therefore, we may suppose that the platonic, as well as the bodily relationships among the lovers must have played an important role in the author’s life. Besides, as the homo- and heterosexual hints are present, we may suppose that bisexualism was close to the poet’s literary life. However, his unambiguous indications that females are the subjects of love prove their importance for the author’s life and his literary work.
Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
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I. The Same-Gender Relations in the Poem
In the “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman sings, among the other subjects, of the masculine body and love to men. While in a few lines the hints might seem to be quite suggestive, the overall picture of the same-gender relations does not allow to conclude about homosexuality of the author, as well as of the writing itself.
At first, depiction of the scenes of love to men and adoration of beauty of their body is often associated with the purity of the nature. The author, in the third verse of the first part, begins with himself, describing his wonderful physical condition at the age of thirty-seven, “hoping to cease not till death” (Whitman, 1855). In the verse, not only he emphasizes the perfect bodily situation, but asserts his transcendental uniting with the nature and the universe:
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air, (ibid).
Secondly, a picture of the swimming men may seem to be suggestive. For instance, the last verse of the eleventh part explains that they “don’t think whom they souse with spray” (ibid). However, the previous verses of it go about a woman that lives nearby the river bank, “splashes in the water, … sees them and loves them … and seizes them” (ibid), which could mean anything else, despite the hint of a homosexual orgy. Moreover, the association with the Roman “banquets”, where, possibly, homosexual contacts could have place, is quite improbable, because the river swimming takes place outdoors, before the other people’s eyes, near a populated area, while the orgies took place in mansions.
Thirdly, the thirty-ninth part of the poem, in which he writes about love to a savage, may cause associations with the bisexualism. For instance, the “friendly savage” is warmly met:
Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him
They desire he should like them, touch them, speak to them, stay with them (ibid).
Nevertheless, this expression does not necessarily mean the same-gender intercourse suggestion, because the savage may be loved as any other person, when numerous fans and adherents wish to be close to the subject of their admiration. Besides, he described sexual intercourse, using the words “copulation”, “kiss”, “lips”, “bed-fellow” (ibid), but omitted the expressions in this case.
II. Adoration by the Heterosexual Love and its Significance for the Author
While the hints in the poem may indicate homosexual nature of the feelings, the author writes about heterosexual relations and glorifies the value of the opposite-gender relations transparently.
At first, in the third part, he emphasizes the union of the opposites, which can exist to its full extent only among the opposite-gender partners:
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and
increase, always sex (ibid).
Secondly, in the fifth part, writing about the men and women and his general attitude to them, he uses expressions that reveal the heterosexual behavior of the poet, who calls the women his “lovers”, while the men are united only by brotherhood, not sex:
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers (ibid).
Finally, in the eighth verse, he sings of the beauty of the young and sexually attractive bride, revealing support of the traditional society approach to the family and marriage:
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to her feet (ibid).
Walt Whitman in the “Song of Myself” writes about his perceptions of the world, his union with it and the love that is the basic feeling in the relations of the human beings. While some hints in the poem may suggest the authors’ bisexual behavior or mood, he glorifies the women’s beauty and generalizes that only opposites may have sex — all “women are lovers” and all “men are brothers”. Even when the men are rejoicing, bathing by the riverbank, the spiritual feminine nature is present in the person of a secret woman, watching and loving them.
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