How do these samples of Whitman’s poetry reflect the ideas about Whitman and Transcendentalism that I have presented to you in my lesson?
Whitman and Transcendentalism
In early nineteenth century, there were developed a philosophical, political and American literary movement known as Transcendentalism; it was controlled and managed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Walt Whitman was not among the transcendentalist, but the movement motivated his career. It has been noted that Whitman often referred to Emerson in most of his work. In his first poetry collection ‘Leaves of Grass’ that he released in the year 1855 he says that “I am the poet that Emerson had been waiting for.” Moreover, Emerson had responded positively towards his first self-published work. He said, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.”
Also, there are so many transcendental themes in Whitman’s work. He believed much on nature and individuality. The fact that he based most of his work on transcendentalism made Emerson like him. In one of his most famous poems “Song of Myself” he uses the word “Myself” as the title of the poem. It shows individualism that is also the main theme in the poem. It also reflects individual spirit that also emulated by transcendentalists.
In “Leaves of Grass” Whitman continues to address one of the favorite themes of the transcendentalists. It mostly emphasized on nature and hence leading to a comment from Emerson who says that “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed” Whitman wanted people to understand nature and how it works. He kept on revising the poem since it gave him much meaning throughout his career.
Whitman continues to address his ideas and transcendentalism in the poem “A Noiseless patient spider” it talks about nature and how people should relate to it. Moreover, it addresses another transcendentalism theme that requires all individuals to act as per their conscience. It clearly is shown in the first stanza of the poem; the spider figures out the way of filling the void. Also by addressing nature in the poem it shows the love he had for nature and the same applied to transcendentalists. “To explore the vacant, vast surrounding” the line reflects one of the transcendentalists point of view which requires someone to live deliberately.
In Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” he addresses the theme of Spirituality. Though Whitman was not associated directly with the Transcendentalists, he lumped with the most prominent transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who greatly believed in spirituality as the base of the natural world. On the contrary, Whitman avoids expressing his feelings about spiritual language; he wanted to be as inclusive as possible. Also, the poem addresses an issue on individualism. He addresses an issue that one apostrophe always that ends up creating a friendship relationship between the reader and the speaker. The speaker also addresses the issue on the physical body being the identity key of a person.
Also, Whitman uses “When I heard the learned astronomer” poem to respond to his and transcendentalism ideas. The transcendental theme of self-wisdom is shown in the way the speaker moves out to study astronomy’s natural world. Individuality is also addressed as the speaker finds his way of surviving without necessarily listening to other people. In the world of transcendentalism, there is an emotional understanding that is also addressed in the speaker’s way of talking. The speaker of the poem evaluates as well as explaining the content of the poem through an emotional approach.
In conclusion, Whitman has expressed transcendentalism in almost of all his work. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a transcendentalist, motivated him with his positive responses; he also enjoyed Whitman’s poetry that emulated a lot to do with nature, individualism and spirituality.