Song of Myself
As suggested in the title, Song of Myself is indeed concerned with the poet's experience. Yet it also is concerned with much more the human condition, nature, and the universe and it is presented through the lens of the poet's unique vision.
Whitman's personality is powerful in the poem his opening lines state that I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. But instead of being a simple statement of egotism, it is a statement of camaraderie. Whitman is symbolically reaching out to the reader, suggesting that they are interconnected even on a molecular level. And from that point on, Whitman is able to expand his concerns to include larger questions of brotherhood, human nature, and death.
Whitman's concern of these questions is unyielding. His observations appear as a series of outbursts and revelations. As a result, the poem may seem to have no apparent organization or guiding principle. Yet closer assessment, one can argue that Song of Myself unfolds carefully as a mystical experience on the part of the poet. And while its tone is ecstatic and its scope is vast, the poem remains grounded in the self, the touchstone
Vanquished and victor, vice and virtue, and body and soul are reconciled as part of the total life experience, presented without judgment: What blurt is this about virtue and about vice Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent. Quickly, though, the tone changes: the poet's images become morbid, and he feels others' suffering with devastating acuteness ( I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe ). I troop forth replenish'd with supreme power. He evokes the image of himself as a balloon drifting over the earth, and he catalogues the people and places he sees. Romantic entanglements, war and conflict, and illness that touch the poet's life do not necessarily define him: They are not the Me myself. The grass is a key image that unlocks his thoughts. In this spirit the poet is also able to accept and celebrate the body. The poet is able to turn his attention to the degraded and reviled, and dignify them. As the poet awakens to these questions, he also feels a keen awareness of, and love for, others. Shifting tone yet again with an abrupt Enough! Enough! Enough!", the poet describes himself using imagery that evokes Christ's crucifixion. Rather than being sinful or dirty, sensuality is a necessary part of mystical revelation. After feeling this intense suffering, the poet is able to reach the last stages of his mystical experience and achieve union. According to the poet, purity is achieved only by shedding false morality. The mystical experience described in Song of Myself progresses with conviction.