Whitman's essays have been a significant contribution towards world realism and transcendentalism over the past decades. With the ability to include both views in his essays, he was the most influential essayist in American culture and history. Apart from being an essayist, Whitman was also a poet and a journalist hence famously known as "father of free verse." He is well remembered for his poem, "Leaves of Grass" that triggered the unresponsive American public giving him a national bard (Harding, 23). It was a nice injection to the poetic veins of America. According to studies, Whitman received inspirations from Emerson's essays dating back in 1844.
Under a closer review, Whitman tried to touch all the sections of life ranging from romance, family life, and sexuality. It is a great benefit to the American people at that time. As a unique poet, his voice of production did not depend on models derived from the English literature. He addressed central premises like romance that changed the moral behaviors of Americans. As a single product, his poem "Leaves of Grass," attained six editions termed as deathbed editions. Several works of Whitman must be recognized in American lifetime; they include; Drum-Taps, Sequel to Drum-Taps, Memoranda During the War, and Complete Prose Works (Groak, 26).
Despite many Americans venturing into poetry and journalism, Whitman's work always remains a significant point of reference. It is the foundation of great productions that have made America more popular in the world. The works make the ninetieth century more memorable. The most important of all, all his actions reflected the realities and laws that are deep in the human soul. As such, modern literature should reshape the strategies to reach the ancient standards.
Summary of the Walt's poem "To a Stranger"
The persona uses the poem to address a stranger who seems to be passing by him in a street. The speaker believes that he and the stranger whose gender has not been defined have met with each other in another life. He is keen to remind the stranger of the various experiences they went through, the things they shared and how close their relationship was. They had grown together eating and sleeping in the same place which made their emotional bond to match their physical companionship. According to the speaker, the two are currently strangers making the old shared memories a hint of their closeness. They pass each other without saying a word to one another although they silently exchange sentiments remembering how close they were in the other life. The speaker concludes the poem concludes by saying that he cannot have a conversation with the stranger in their current life. He can only harbor nostalgic thoughts about the stranger hoping that an opportunity will arise for them to meet and re-ignite the memory of their relationship. The speaker has put an effort to keep his spiritual connection with the stranger alive.
Analysis of the poem
As one of America's most prominent contributors of realism, Whitman's poem reflect the real world that people live in. First, his poem adopts a free verse writing style which is a common phenomenon in his poems. The poem's structure takes one stanza with ten lines and the poet utilizes the signature list format to highlight the connection between the persona and the stranger for instance when he says, "...you give me pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take my beard, breast, hands in return," (To a stranger line 7). Whitman utilizes the list style by outlining the physical assets in an effort to reveal the connection that exist between the body and soul, which is common theme in his works. He uses the ideas of transcendentalism as a strategy of giving prominence of the connection which exists between the external body and nature.
'To a Stranger' poem bears thematic resemblance to his earlier poem "To You," in which he reveals his astonishment on the society's norm of polite reservation towards strangers. In the poem "To You," Whitman wonders why social norms does not allow strangers to address each other even when the parties are willing to do so whereas in "To a Stranger," he uses the speaker to indicate a silent connection between the parties involved because they shared a life. However, the speaker is keen not to address the stranger because of their current status, they are strangers. Instead, he retreats and hopes that their spiritual connection which they share will lead them to a physical connection in different life from the present one.
Whitman glorifies his democratic ideology by leaving the gender identity of the stranger undefined. His style allows the stranger to represent any person in the real life, creating an identity ambiguity which reveals his kindness towards humanity. The speaker's voice could be representing the poet's personal opinions towards the subject matter. However, the use of a democratic self allows Whitman to create a connection with the poem's readers as they can relate it to their real lives. Like in most of his poems, Whitman has treated the reader as a character in "To a Stranger" to enable him to achieve his poetic goal of using a poem a democratizing force.
Academy of American Poets. To a Stranger poem Walt Whitman (1819-1892) accessed from https://m.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/to-a-stranger
Groak, Jan. Canon vs. culture: Reflections on the current debate. Routledge, 2013. 23-48.
Harding, Brian. American Literature in Context: 1830-1865. Routledge, 2016. 23-28.
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