Walt Whitman wrote both poems "I Sit and Look Out" and "For You, O Democracy" in the second half of the 19th Century when the revolutionary war ended, and there was the advent of capitalism. It was at this time that there was a significant change in people's way of life as they were in the rat race of seeking material possession. It was at this time that people became calculative and manipulative. People lost valuable principles lacking emotional concerns on each other. Predominantly, it was everyone on their own, as people became more self-centered.
The theme in both poems is that they speak about the revolutionary situation of the world especially America at that particular time. They, however, take different approaches in that "I Sit and Look Out" the speaker explains the atrocities and miseries being committed without the intention of bringing a change in the situation. The title says, On the other hand, the speaker in "For You, O democracy" has this idealistic belief that democracy will cure all these ills America and the world were facing at that particular point in life. The speaker seems to encourage the embracing of democratic ideals as it brings a lot of benefits and positive results to the world at large. The speaker says "...will make the continent indissoluble."
In the poem "I Sit and Look Out," the speaker takes the position of a detached observer who just sits idle without the intention of doing anything to change the situation in response to the atrocities and miseries happening at that time. He uses the verb, "sit" in the title to show that he is just an onlooker. The speaker also uses the verbal phrase "look out" to show that he is wary about the situation and to show the continuance of these atrocious acts and would be careful that they do not affect him. On the other hand in the poem 'For You, O Democracy" the speaker takes an active role in ensuring that he makes a change in the state of affairs at hand. The speaker uses "I will..." to show that he is willing to take part in creating his dream America free from the problems that faced it at the time. By using "I," the speaker shows belief in the thought that the democracy will transform the situation ..." will make the continent indissoluble."
The tone and imagery of both poems differ to a great extent. The mood in "I sit and Look out" is pessimistic and presents imagery of the resulting events being apocalyptic. The speaker is confined to complacency. The use of the phrase "Look out" in the title shows that the speaker is removed and seeks to stay free from the continuing disillusionment being displayed and the suffering on the multitude. On the other hand, the tone in the poem "For You, O Democracy" is optimistic and presents imagery of the effects leading to a positive impact in the state of affairs in the world once democracy is embraced. It will join lands "...I will make divine magnetic lands" .and bring people together with love with the promise of lifelong companionship. He is literally singing with joy on this thought. "For you, for you, I am trilling these songs."
To conclude, both poems show the standpoints people take in the advent of a difficult or a negative situation. One can decide to be complacent and talk about the case on remotely do nothing about it as in the poem, "I Sit and Look Out" or try to suggest a solution and bring hope to the people on the situation at hand as in the poem, "For You, O Democracy."
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