Song of Myself: Section 5 - Summary & Analysis

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I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.


I believe in you my soul, the other I am must
not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other,

      These lines show Whitman’s conception of democracy. All are equal irrespective of caste, color, sex, religion in a democracy. All parts of the body are equally important. All factors, all creations of God in this Universe, petty or great, animate or inanimate, are equally sacred. Similarly, the poet shows that the body and the soul are equally important and sacred. He does not praise one and debase the other. A perfect harmony of the two is essential in knowing the self and thence starts the mystical journey to mingle with the Divine.


      Whitman introduces the theme of love, which unites body and soul and all creation. To quote Geoffrey Dutton, “This section is one of the greatest mystical visions in all poetry; and yet one hesitates to use the “mystical” words about a vision that is also so precise and compassionate, and so perfectly, after the earlier strutting and exaltation, introduces the theme of humility”.


      The poet insists that the body and the soul are indissoluble. One is not above the other. Both are equally important. He does not debase one or praise the other. He invites his soul to wander with him, to roam and meet the ultimate God. He says that he will not be tempted by any other sound or melody. He likes to be in perfect harmony with his soul, without any diversion of thought.

      He recollects, a bygone scene, when on a clear summer morning, he lay on the grass, with his beloved soul. The poet gives an erotic picture of a couple in love. To quote James E. Miller: “The vital relationship of the body of the mystical experience and the identification of the ‘mystic deliria’ as analogous with it are both strongly suggested in the key Section 5 of the Song of Myself in which the poet appears to be going into the mystic trance.


      The sexual imagery is unmistakable. In another context, the passage might well appear to be a physical drama of ecstatic sexual experience. But in its own context, it is a mystic interfusion of body and soul. This section depicting passionate love introduces the two participants - the body and the soul. When the body has been elevated to a state of bliss by the soul, the poet achieves transcendent illumination:

...Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth
...And that a kelson of the creation is love.

      A mystical experience of mystics transcends “all arguments of the Earth”. Their knowledge is not the result of the logic of the mind but it is the result of the spontaneity of the soul. William James defined mysticism as a state of consciousness characterized by two qualities: noetic, or purely intellectual insight and revelation; and ineffable, inexpressible in ordinary human language, known only through the experience itself. These qualities abound in Song of Myself in particular and in Leaves of Grass in general. Whitman shows unity in diversity in his poems. He shows the unity and harmony pervading the Universe. Finally he shows the merging of the soul with the Universal Being, which only results from self-realization. There is always a development describing the physical union, which is elevated to the spiritual union, which, in other words, is the arena of mysticism.

      The spiritual union breathes in peace, an inexplicable bliss which is above earthly knowledge. The awareness dawns that the body and the soul are creations of God. Both are sacred and equally important. He considers all men and women as equal, as the creator-God is the same to one and all. The very breath of the universe and existence is love. Bereft of it, everything is barren. All creations of God-animals, or human-beings or trees, great or small, are equally sacred. This puts forth Whitman’s conception of democracy.

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