"Breaking Down the Structure of Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself'"

Oh, boy! Do I have a treat for you today! Today, we're going to dive deep into the structure of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself." This poem has been praised as one of the most influential in American literature, and by the end of this article, you'll know why.

First of all, it's important to note that "Song of Myself" is a part of Whitman's larger work, "Leaves of Grass." It's a long poem, composed of 52 sections, and it was first published in 1855. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it doesn't have a specific rhyme scheme or meter. Instead, the lines flow naturally, with Whitman's words serving as the only guide.

The "I" and "You"

The poem is split into three distinct parts, and in each part, Whitman uses the first person point of view. This means that he frequently uses the word "I" when talking about himself. However, he also addresses the reader directly using the word "you." This creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the narrator, as if Whitman is speaking directly to each individual reader.

The First Part

The first part of "Song of Myself" is perhaps the most famous. It begins with the line, "I celebrate myself, and sing myself," and it goes on to describe the ways in which Whitman sees himself as connected to everything else in the universe. He describes his own vastness, saying he contains "multitudes," and he marvels at the world around him.

One of the most interesting things about this section is the way that Whitman uses repetition to create a sense of the cyclical nature of life. He says, "The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he complains of my gab and my loitering. I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable," and later on, he repeats the line, "I too am not a bit tamed." This repetition highlights the cyclical nature of life and the way that everything is connected.

The Second Part

The second part of "Song of Myself" is a bit more contemplative. It begins with the line, "What is the grass?" and goes on to explore the idea of death and rebirth. Whitman muses on the way that everything in nature is connected, from the animals in the field to the soil beneath his feet.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this section is the way that Whitman uses metaphor to describe the vastness of nature. He says, "I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning; / You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn'd over upon me, / And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart," which, while it may seem like an explicit passage at first glance, is actually a metaphor for the way that two people can become completely intertwined with each other.

The Third Part

The final part of "Song of Myself" is perhaps the most philosophical. Whitman muses on the idea of time and space, and he questions the nature of life and death. He says, "And as to you Life I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths," and later on, he remarks that "Death is the last word." Throughout this section, Whitman is grappling with some of the big questions of existence, trying to understand the role that he plays in the universe.

One of the most interesting aspects of this section is the way that it culminates in a declaration of faith in humanity. Whitman says, "I exist as I am, that is enough, / If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, / And if each and all be aware, I sit content." This declaration is a powerful one, highlighting the way that Whitman sees himself as a part of a larger whole.


Phew! That was a lot to take in, but hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the structure of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself." By using repetition, metaphor, and a first person point of view, Whitman creates a poem that is both intimate and universal, grappling with some of the big questions of existence.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend you check out the poem for yourself. It's a fascinating read, and as we've seen today, there's a lot to unpack. Thanks for joining me on this journey through one of America's most enduring works of literature!

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