Epic Strain in Walt Whitman’s Poetry Leaves of Grass

Also Read

      Whitman never called Leaves of Grass an epic. But the work has certain epical qualities in both substance and form. Leaves of Grass represents the age and its society in the tradition of earlier epics such as the Iliad, the Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, or Paradise Lost. Whitman’s work may be called the modern New World epic, the epic of America, for Whitman is, in Richard Chase’s words, “an authentic spokesman for the tendencies of his country. ”

      Leaves of Grass may not deal in a “heroic” subject like war or love in the conventional sense. He sings of contemporary America, her aspirations and accomplishments. The “battle” in his poem is over the transformation of the individual. Whitman’s hero is the self, the embodiment of potential supreme power. Leaves of Grass has “epic proportion”. The imaginative range of the poem is evidence of the epic proportions.

      Leaves of Grass, however, is nothing like a conventional epic. The work is devoid of the ornamental touches characteristic of the traditional epics. The language is anything but heightened and “noble”; it is the language of everyday America that Whitman employs. Whitman also rejects conventional metrical patterns and structures. Leaves of Grass does not possess the traditional kind of “structure” or form.

Previous Post Next Post