Thursday, March 12, 2009

Song of Myself

Journal #20
Posted by Michael Fong
March 12, 2009
Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

"Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female, / For me those that have been boys and that love women, / For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted, / For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the mothers of mothers, / For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears, / For me children and the begetters of children." (Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself")

I wonder if the title for this poem could be more appropriately named. As the biography shows, opera plays a huge part in Whitman's "Song of Myself". While I said that I was greatly confused when reading his poem, one thing that did not escape my attention is that how he groups his poetry into "movements", so to speak. Whitman creates a silent sort of tone in the beginning which usually ends in a climax of repetitions. That is, in a way, very similar to opera, or even classical music. True, Whitman does not have the conventional form of poetry, but he does exhibit certain subtle forms of music in his poetry.

My knowledge about operas is painfully limited, but I do remember the time when I first heard Luciano Pavarotti sing. His nine high Cs in La Fille du Regiment could still bring shivers, and who could forget his version of "Nessun Dorma", one of the most powerful versions that I have ever heard. His repetition of the nine high C notes is very similar with Whitman's constant repeptition of phrases and words in his poetry. It also has the operatic quality of the telling of a story. It makes the audience "feel" the music; the audience feels saddened when the tragedy of two lovers is unfolded, and rejoice when the villain is slain. Similarly, readers are invited to embark upon the "roller-coaster" of "Song of Myself". It is definitely not for the faint of heart, and indeed, a lifetime could be spent upon this single poem entirely. Is it perhaps because of lack of experience in life that makes the poem so difficult to comprehend for me? One way or the other, I do hope that someday I could be able to feel the music myself, and understand "Song of Myself" more completely.

1 comment:

  1. 20/20 "and indeed, a lifetime could be spent upon this single poem entirely." Or several.