Defining the Soul in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself Essay

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Every sentence in Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" tends to either repeat or contradict. He even says of himself, "I contradict myself" (Lauter, p. 2793). This can make Whitman's poetry a little confusing to some. In his many stanzas, definition of the soul is ambiguous and somewhat contradictory. Whitman says, "Clear and sweet is my soul....and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul" (Lauter, p. 2745). What I believe Whitman is saying here is that his soul and everything else that is not his soul, including the souls of others, is clear and sweet. He goes on to say in the lines following, "Lacks one lacks both..." (Lauter, p. 2745). In other words, a soul cannot be clear if it is not sweet and a soul cannot be sweet…show more content…
This line is an example of his use of contradiction because he also says that his soul cannot exceed the other parts of himself. Whitman writes that he, as a poet, represents the body and that he is "the poet of the soul" (Lauter, p.2759). In other words, his poetry represents the body and the soul, but since we are more interested in the soul, we will focus on that. Remember, also, Whitman's poetry is often contradictory. He says in the following lines, "The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me" (Lauter, p. 2759). I believe what Whitman is saying here is that his soul includes both pleasure and pain. But, in the very next line he says that he has brought pleasure on himself and the pain he feels he "translates into a new tongue" (Lauter, p. 2759). The tongue refers to here is his poetry. To tie this altogether, his poetry represents the soul, particularly pleasure and pain. He takes the pain from his soul and translates it into poetry. Therefore, his poetry represents his soul. According to Whitman the soul neither completes nor delights a person. He reiterates this by saying, "All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me, Now I stand on this spot with my soul" (Lauter, p. 2787). Here the soul is separate from delight - the soul does not make man happy. Nor does it complete a person. Rather, it is waiting to be completed. Whitman writes
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