Song of Myself

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What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe . . . . and am not
contained between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as

They do not know how immortal, but I know.

Now, I feel the need to explain why I have chosen this particular passage from the Song of Myself. First, and the foremost, I felt it close to my own understanding of the world. I could not but admire the tranquility with which he speaks of death as of something, not only perfectly normal, but also beautiful. It made me wonder what would my life be like if I too were so free from fear and so courageous to “stare directly into the sun”. Maybe the only way to live as fully as possible is to rid oneself of the fear of the eventual end. An that is what Whitman says in these lines – if you want to celebrate life, first you must accept death, not as the end, but as an inevitable change.


4 Responses to “Song of Myself”

  1. indira Says:
    Avatar of indira

    “The smallest sprout shows there is really no death”

    I love this! So positive and optimistic, yet makes me kind of sad. People are so puny and little, their understanding of the world just doesn’t go very far…


  2. Karen Karbiener Says:
    Avatar of Karen Karbiener

    Sanja, I also loved your idea of ridding oneself of the fear of death… seems like such a small thing, when in fact that is the Looming Thought that hangs over so much of what we do. Thanks for the inspiration to charge head-first into life!

  3. Josip Balazevic Says:
    Avatar of Josip Balazevic

    This passage very much reminded me of Wordsworth’s poem:
    “A SLUMBER did my spirit seal;
    I had no human fears:
    She seemed a thing that could not feel
    The touch of earthly years.

    No motion has she now, no force;
    She neither hears nor sees;
    Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,
    With rocks, and stones, and trees.”

    I suppose Whitman did read Wordsworth and other Romantic poets. One can see the influence of English literature of this period on Whitman’s writing.

  4. Elma Lena Porobic Says:
    Avatar of Elma Lena Porobic

    Sanja, I also like this passage and the very idea of getting rid of our fears, especially the fear of death. I wonder why we very often tend to waste our life energy on something so certain and inevitable, when life indeed offers a myriad of impressions, emotions, ideas and perceptions. And yes, not all of them beautiful and pleasant, but all of them inseparable part of ourselves. But should we close our eyes and shut ourselves just because we are afraid, when there is the slightest chance that we will experience something that makes life worth living? As Whitman says:

    “And as to you life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths,
    No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.”

    Yes, we are going to die, no denial, but we have lived.

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