Song of Myself: Section 2 - Summary & Analysis

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Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.


You shall not look through my eyes either nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

      These lines depict the world of man and the world of nature. The poet announces that the intoxicating life of man, the bookish knowledge, which is imparted in educational institutions is insufficient to mold his personality The poet gives vent to his thought that nature is the best teacher to mankind. He wants the people to gain first-hand experience from their own eyes and ears. Books only describe what the poets and authors have seen. It is second hand experience for the reader. Hence, Whitman says, a firsthand knowledge of nature is reward in itself.


      The poet stresses the necessity of going into the open nature without inhibition. In the open woods, he wants to have direct contact with the volatile original energy of nature. He wants a firsthand experience of what nature has to give. This reminds one of Wordsworth whose teacher was nature herself. The poet describes the stuffy, intoxicating life in houses and rooms. It distracts the poet’s mood also. Yet he wants to inhale draughts of the odorless air of the open atmosphere. He wants to go to nature, mingle and become one with her.


      He likes to discard the common mechanical life. He likes to roam in the arms of nature, listening to the “echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk thread, crotch and vine”; and observe life in the woods and smelling the fresh greenness of the leaves. The poet’s robust approach to life is seen in this section. He seems to enjoy every minute of his life packed with various experiences. He likes “the play of shine and shade of the trees”; “A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,” “the full-moon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.” Every little activity has a meaning for the poet. It goes to make life eventful.


      He emphasizes that bookish knowledge is removed from reality. It will be just a presentation of what is found in nature. The experience becomes second-hand. Hence he wants the reader to go with him to the open woods, to come into direct contact with nature, and gain first-hand experience. He prepares himself and the reader to set out on a journey to attain the mystical experience. To Wordsworth, a direct communion with nature meant to attain ‘that blessed mood which is the result of such a communion. Whitman also advises that though a man thinks that he achieves something great when he reads or deciphers some great scientific mystery or theory, yet a man loses something if he does not enrich himself with direct contact with what the bountiful nature has got to give. Whitman’s treatment of nature is personal. Being a mystic, his attitude to nature is pantheistic. Every object in nature symbolizes the greatness and glory of the Creator-God. His equal love for animals, birds, flowers, trees shows his democratic approach to nature. He recognizes the worth of every object in nature. Hence he invites the readers to get into communion with nature at first hand.

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