Analysis Of Walt Whitman 's ' When Lilacs Last

Decent Essays
Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” has often been linked to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Written in the form of an elegy, the assassination itself provides the occasion, whereas the subject is broader than the occasion. Lincoln’s name is never mentioned throughout the poem, allowing the historical considerations to give way to universal significance. This is demonstrated when Whitman transitions, “Nor for you, for one alone. Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring.” While it is significant that Lincoln’s name is never mentioned, it is also important that the manner of death, assassination, is also never mentioned. Though the poem mimics the journey of Lincoln’s coffin, few people lose their lives to assassination. Not mentioning the name of Lincoln or the assassination, allows the poem to be applied to death in general.Whitman uses three nature images throughout the poem. These three images include lilacs, star, and a thrush. Alternating between nothing more than a broken twig and something left to all those who have been laid to rest, the lilac sprig is an offering to the deceased.The lilac also reveals the poem’s setting, springtime, which is generally a time associated with renewal. The dead come back to life. The star, Venus, as noted in the footnotes or also commonly associated with Lincoln, represents a man who has died. Whitman uses nature as a way to explore death as a release from the sufferings of life. This rationale does not
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