Song of Myself is a poem written by Robert Frost that was first published in 1855. It was one of the twelve poems that Walt Whitman included in his novel “Leaves of Grass.” The poem is considered to be one of the most famous pieces of poetry in American history. It expresses the importance of individuality in American society. The author wished to capture the ways in which the person communicates with other members of the group by exploring the self. Essentially, the speaker of the poem hoped to understand the elements of the self and how these can be merged to further understand their position in American society and the universes as a whole.
The poem constitutes one of the most influential poems in America. It captures the place of individuality in the American society. Through the exploration of the self, the author hoped to capture the ways by which the individual interacts with other members of the community. Essentially, the speaker of the poem hoped to understand the elements of the self and how these can be merged to further understand their position in the American society and the universes as whole.
The poem was created in the age of reason. The age of reason was a movement which allowed new insights for man. The movement was mainly dominant in the 18th century (Gottlieb 19). In this era, man began to challenge the principles that were established by religion and further began to apply rationalization in defining their individuality. It marked the beginning of an increasingly open and curious society which was made up by individuals who hoped to pursue new ideas. Man was thus allowed more freedom to opinionate and speculate over all aspects of existence. In the poem Song of Myself, asks repeatedly, “Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? Have you reckon’d the earth much? Have you practis’d so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of the poems?” (Whitman 7). These questions are all aimed at trying to determine new realities for the individual within the American society. The age of reasons is sometimes to as the age of enlightenment. The creation of the poem at this time coincided with the evolution of thinking where the individual was not to be curtailed by political dogmas and religions declarations (Paine 18). This age of reason is lauded as being solely responsible for the scientific leaps that have been made in the modern society.
Similarly, the poem is aligned towards the school of existentialism. Existentialism was a movement which promoted the notion that existence came before essence. According to Satre (31), the philosopher behind the existentialist principle, predicated that man did not have to conform to his situations. Therefore, everyone had the freedom to influence the outcomes of their efforts. The poem negates the potency of general dictums which had hitherto been superstitiously propagated and accepted by the majority of the Americans. One of the major themes in the poem Song of the Self constitutes the theme of freedom. Intrinsically, the freedom to live as one wills, the freedom to determine what constitutes the ideal option for man and the freedom against political influence. Consequently, the speaker in the poem determines that “You shall not look through my eyes either nor take things from me. You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”(Whitman 8). This assertion reinforces the concept of free will and follows the metrics that were set by Descartes’ supposition of the “I”.
Additionally, the poem captures the theme of learning and education. Principally, Whitman establishes that the duty to learn and acquire knowledge was to be undertaken by the individual if they were to further themselves in the society. It is this knowledge that will liberate man from the shackles of religious generalizations and political manipulation. The speaker advises that an individual should seek to identify their own truths (Whitman 12). This initiative can only be achieved if the subject individuals commit to further advance their knowledge. The theme of education reflects the era of reason. In this era, individuals sought to employ empirical data in defining their circumstances. There was an increased desire by the individual to determine their own fates and to negate the concept of destiny.
In my opinion, Whitman intended to challenge the prevailing connotations which sought to define the American society. The main aim of the poem was to spur initiative in the American people and to communicate the need for self-examination. Scientific advances made in this era were a reflection of the new curiosity in the minds of the Americans. By challenging the prevailing ideas, Whitman hoped to curtail the assertions which had hitherto been an impediment to the progress of the American people. He further hoped to capture the essence of education for future advancement of humanity (Paine 54). It was therefore imperative that each individual exerted themselves to achieve community progress.
Conclusively, the poem Song of Myself captures the existentialist principle. It was a poem which was created in the age of reason. Mainly, the author hoped to challenge the prevailing viewpoints on the position of the individual in the society. Overall, the poem succeeds in reinforcing the need for the individual in the enlightened era to pursue their own goals and define their characters vis-à-vis the community. The author succeeds in merging all the elements that form part of the self and thus creates a distinction between the individuals and the society.
Gottlieb, Anthony. The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy . Liveright , 2016.
Paine, Thomas. The Age of Reason . CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform , 2015 .
Satre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism is a Humanism . Yale University Press , 2007.
Whitman, Walt. Song of Myself . Dover Publications , 2001.