Song of Myself: Section 16 - Summary & Analysis

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I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.
(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)


Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest....

      These lines show that the ‘self’ of the poet is all-inclusive. It has no bias towards one religion or the other. It does not have one law for the poor and one law for the rich. He says that his ‘self’ includes people of all hues, castes, every rank and every religion. A physician, a priest, a prisoner, a lawyer, a farmer, a mechanic, all are equal to him. He identifies himself with all of them irrespective of their states in society. He identifies himself equally with the wise and the foolish.


      The poet’s ‘self’ expands and this section gives a catalog of the things included in the ‘self’. In the beginning itself he asserts that:

I am of the old and the young, of the foolish as much as the wise....

      There is no distinction of caste, color, sex or religion as far as Whitman is concerned. The good, the bad, the wise, the foolish belong to him. He also belongs to them. The children, the elderly, the rich, the poor, the northern States, the southern States, a Yankee, a Kentuckian, a boatman, a Westerner, all belong to him. His self is inclusive of all. He is not just a citizen of America, but he is a citizen of the world. His ‘self’ expands, and transcends the physical limitations of the human form. The ‘self’ manifests itself in the external world. He calls himself a “comarade of all who shake hands.” He defines himself to be of every hue and caste, rank and religion. In describing his ‘self’ as including the entire humanity, Whitman gives a pen-picture of the active life of the Americans. The poet’s identification with the entire humanity and Universe is described in an elaborate manner. He wants this trait of self-identification in every being. After all, it is the same common air that everybody breathes and the same water that everybody drinks.

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