Check out our other writing samples, like our resources on , ,. Although intent upon peering into their secret world, he is very careful not to disturb the family's joyous harmony: And their nest, four light-green eggs spotted with brown, And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand, And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent, with bright eyes, And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating. O you singer solitary, singing by yourself, projecting me, O solitary me listening, never more shall I cease perpetuating you, Never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations, Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me, Never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there in the night, By the sea under the yellow and sagging moon, The messenger there arous'd, the fire, the sweet hell within, The unknown want, the destiny of me. While we bask--we two together. What is that dusky spot in your brown yellow? Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking by Walt Whitman Poetry Foundation agenda angle-down angle-left angleRight arrow-down arrowRight bars calendar caret-down cart children highlight learningResources list mapMarker openBook p1 pin poetry-magazine print quoteLeft quoteRight slideshow tagAudio tagVideo teens trash-o. Particularly in its 1860 form, it was the expression of a man taking stock of his life and art. To read the poem in relation to the division of the American Union is not to detract from its significance as a tale of love, loss, and artistic resolution but, rather, to recognize the historical roots of this elegy of dissolution in the state of the nation on the eve of the Civil War.
My own songs awaked from that hour, And with them the key, the word up from the waves, The word of the sweetest song and all songs, That strong and delicious word which creeping to my feet, Or like some old crone rocking the cradle, swathed in sweet garments, bending aside, The sea whisper'd me. All of the prepositions denote a starting point, a point of departure, and they indicate a multitude of sources for the genesis of the poet. The abyss, furthermore, is necessary for the continuity of Bloom's genealogy because it is the place where the poet transumes his precursors and thereby transforms the abyss, or aporia, into a logos, or an image of voice. Unfortunately, Whitman wrote another stanza after it. By chanting the word as he does, Whitman strikes an exact balance between on the one hand calling the reality of death forth with the insistence of his chant, the gesture of it, and on the other hand allowing that reality to pass over into silence, in the way any word repeated enough times passes over from meaning into pure, empty sound.
Beginning with its opening stanza, the poem is a symphonic song of oneness and twoness. Death can only be understood as the absence of its original, life, as body without spirit, form without content, sign without intention. O what is my destination? The clarity and lyrical quality of Whitman's verbal tones, as these resound in the following lines, shed an atmosphere of foreboding and distress. In so doing, he may believe he can help him cope with his misfortune. The male's cries touch something in the boy, and he seems to be able to translate what the bird is saying. Put down your warmth, great Sun! The poem is loose in its form, except for the sections that purport to be a transcript of the bird's call, which are musical in their repetition of words and phrases. O madly the sea pushes upon the land, With love, with love.
It may be objected that the poem's conclusion does, in fact, postulate an end to or a controlling center of discourse, of composition and interpretation, but actually the opposite is the case. O you dear womens and mens phantoms! Whitman imaginatively recreates the childhood experience of this inquiring lad and also shows how the boy becomes a man, and the man, a poet. Is that it from your liquid rims and wet sands? Once Paumanok, When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing, Up this seashore in some briers, Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together, And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown, And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand, And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent, with bright eyes, And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating. If the bird projects some of Whitrnan's despairing sense of personal and national loss, the emergent poet represents the renewed dedication to his art through which Whitman attempted to overcome his crisis of faith. The poem's macabre soundings of incessant waves fiercely crashing are metaphors for the heaving pulsations emanating from Whitman's subliminal spheres, endlessly spelling out the same message. The mature bard, the poem's author, progressively flooded by the emerging image of the boy he once was, lives out two identities.
For I, that was a child, my tongue's use sleeping, now I have heard you, Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake, And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours, A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die. Lisping and hissing, creeping and rustling like a snake, the sea's word of death is at best ambiguous. For the poet and man, such attachment spelled death! Because it already accords with feeling, it need not be comprehended. Every shadow seemed to the bird the hoped-for shape of his mate reappearing. O I fear it is henceforth chaos! The boy, however, is not the only translator in the poem; there is also the mockingbird. But my mate no more, no more with me! He walks the shore on the edge of the world, the edge of the unknown.
Leo Spitzer As for the songs of the birds, let us note first that Whitman has chosen to replace the hackneyed literary nightingale by a domestic bird of America, the mocking-bird, compared to which, Jefferson once declared, the European nightingale is a third-rate singer. O if I am to have so much, let me have more! This has something of the effect of Beethoven continuing his A-minor quartet after the third movement, or of Rachmaninoff continuing his second symphony after his third movement. O madly the sea pushes, pushes upon the land, With lovewith love. Rhetoric comes into play here, the radical of presentation, the rhythm of words creating a deep sensation in the reader. It seems to be speaking to God or to no one.
So it's a particularly impotent name, as names go, and few poets have ever said it as successfully as Whitman does here. It does so through the rhetoric of address since the message in the bottle seems to be speaking to the poet alone, or to a muse, a friend, a lover, an abstraction, an object in nature. Close on its wave soothes the wave behind, And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close, But my love soothes not me, not me. No longer a communal singer of harmony and joy, the bird now comes closer to the neurosis and solipsism of one of Poe's lovelorn characters, tossing himself frantically on the grave of his beloved. The place where the voice breaks through is always already the past.
For Whitman death is not the end of life, but the beginning of another form of life. A demon can be a muse, a genius, or an inspiration, but it can also be an evil spirit, a fiend from the underworld, or a demon like Poe's raven piercing the heart with its beak. Experience becomes literal by virtue of notation, writing as memory trace, not by the facticity of direct experience. O I cannot see in the dimness whether you smile or frown upon me; O vapor, a look, a word! Whitman has succeeded in imbricating his invasive conflictual emotions into the work of art. Up from the mystic play of shadows twining as if they were alive.
If the poem dramatizes Whitman's renewed dedication to his art after his crisis of faith in the late 1850s, it is a dedication that arises out of the disjunction between desire and history, between the poet's democracy of the imagination and the fact of a disintegrating world. The transformation of the bird from a joyous singer of light and union to an elegiac singer of darkness and separation is similar to the transformation that Whitman himself underwent during the period of heightening schism in the nation between 1855 and 1860. In the end, on the larger scale, these two phenomena are one and the same. Appearing in his 1860 role as unifier and fuser, Whitman resolves artistically the problem of dissolution by yoking the song of two together, the boy's responsive songs, and the word death in a single poetic phrase that encompasses as it inscribes a compensatory rhythm of life and death, love and loss. While we bask, we two together. Gone are his former childlike excitement, his bounding energy, his carefree ways.
This poem, more than any other by Whitman, conforms to Bloom's map of poetic crossings. Finally, an essay specifically dwelling upon rythm- my favorite aspect of poetry! The boy falls from innocence into mortality and self-consciousness the clearest symptom of which is language and then recounts the story of his separation from nature, hoping that narration will grant him a sense of control over or at least some palliating understanding of his catastrophe. . Hence, a topos is an image of voice or of speech, or the place where such an image is stored. Yes, my brother, I know; The rest might notbut I have treasurd every note; For once, and more than once, dimly, down to the beach gliding, Silent, avoiding the moonbeams, blending myself with the shadows, Recalling now the obscure shapes, the echoes, the sounds and sights after their sorts, The white arms out in the breakers tirelessly tossing, I, with bare feet, a child, the wind wafting my hair, Listend long and long. The aria sinking, All else continuing, the stars shining, The winds blowing, the notes of the bird continuous echoing, With angry moans the fierce old mother incessantly moaning, On the sands of Paumanok's shore gray and rustling, The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, drooping, the face of the sea almost touching, The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying, The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting, The aria's meaning, the ears, the soul, swiftly depositing, The strange tears down the cheeks coursing, The colloquy there, the trio, each uttering, The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying, To the boy's soul's questions sullenly timing, some drown'd secret hissing, To the outsetting bard.