I Hear America Singing: Poem - Summary & Analysis

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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day that belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


      Introduction. I Hear America Singing, is a short lyric presents America buzzing with activity-each citizen busy in his profession. Citizens are busy contributing whatever they can with their own efforts to better their society and put America on a higher pedestal as an advanced Nation. The poem is one of the ‘Inscriptions’ which also shows the poet who eulogizes his country very often. He is proud of his Nation and its people. The singing about his Nation is a recurrent theme of his Leaves of Grass. The poem was first published in 1860.

      Summary. The poet suggests that different people sing a song in different notes but there is still a coherence and harmony in them that gives a sense of oneness among all of Americans.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of inechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

      These lines show that the poet is aware of the active life of people around him. America emerged successful through the civil war. It had to gain a prominent place amidst the other powers. The people took up their jobs with enthusiasm. They contributed whatever they could with their own efforts. They enjoyed their respective jobs. The people like the carpenter, the hatter, the mason, the shoemaker; the people at home - the folk sewing, washing, cooking; the robust youth at parties were happy with what they had and sang as they did their jobs.

      The poet says that though they were different songs of different people, they still had a harmony in them. The poet felt that the whole of America itself was buzzing with activity and singing.


      The poet aptly picturizes the day to day life of the workers like the mechanics, the carpenters, the mason, the boatman, the shoemaker, the hatter, the wood-cutter, the plowboy. They are busy with their work. They sing as they work. Their work is not a monotony for them, but it is a pleasure. It is their moment of pride that they can do something for their nation.

      The poet presents the busy active life of people in society or home, on land and on sea - “His spirit responds to his country’s spirit. He incarnates its geography and natural life and rivers and lakes”. In Whitman’s own words “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem” so, naturally, he feels mighty pleased in singing of his wonderful country.

      The civil war being over, the integrity of the Nation being maintained, the people were eager to see their country prosper. The majority of the people in a nation are the commoners. They go to make a strong Nation. The poet while suggesting the respective jobs of the mechanics, carpenters, the man, the hatter the shoemaker, the wood-cutter the plowboy elucidates that they do their jobs with songs on their lips. This in turn throws light on the fact that the workers enjoy their work. Their job is not a burden. On the other hand with perfect harmony, they shoulder the responsibility in taking their nation to prosperity. The poem directly reflects on the active participation of the people in their country’s welfare.

      The poet describes the robust life in the outside world as well as the homely picture of a mother singing, a young wife at work or the girl sewing or washing. They enjoy doing their respective jobs. He is also conscious of the fact, and mentions the parties held in the evenings and nights where robust youths sing melodious songs.

      The rural and urban life always get a touch by the flourish of the poet’s pen. The poem elucidates the point that Whitman always gives authentic scenes. The songs of the workers at their respective jobs may be as varied as their jobs, but there is a synchronization of all the songs, which emerge as a symphony. Thus, the theme that different aspects contribute to the feeling of oneness is exposed. The poem also throws light on the constructive way of thinking of the poet.

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