Essay about Transcendentalism in the Poems of Whitman

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Transcendentalism in the Poems of Whitman

From looking at the titles of Walt Whitman's vast collection of poetry in Leaves of Grass one would be able to surmise that the great American poet wrote about many subjects -- expressing his ideas and thoughts about everything from religion to Abraham Lincoln. Quite the opposite is true, Walt Whitman wrote only about a single subject which was so powerful in the mind of the poet that it consumed him to the point that whatever he wrote echoed of that subject. The beliefs and tenets of transcendentalism were the subjects that caused Whitman to write and carried through not only in the wording and imagery of his poems, but also in the revolutionary way that he chose to write his poetry.
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Out of itself, it "launch[es] filament, filament, filament" (4). Similarly, in the second stanza, Whitman's soul stands "surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space" (7), musing how to build a bridge that would connect them to himself. Like the spider, the poet's soul wants to send out a "gossamer thread" that would "catch somewhere" (10). Whitman uses nature as an appropriate metaphor to express the concept of a man's lonely and seeking soul.

The image of a spider launching forth filament after filament to connect itself in some way with the vastness of its surroundings captures the nature of the human as well, who seeks to link himself, in the mind of the transcendentalist, with the Oversoul and to find the bridge that leads to a definition of life. The critic Wilton Eckley saw this relationship in his essay:

Whitman's poetic soul, like the spider, stands isolated at the center of all things. If it is to take on meaning, it must... come to a realization of itself... The poet then, like the spider is complete in himself-a seer and a "kosmos" - constantly "musing, venturing, throwing, seeking" in an effort to create his own order by forming a union with the whole (Eckley 20).

Even in the search and final completion, Whitman, following the transcendentalism doctrine, warns against a concrete and solid definition. The "ductile anchor" (Whitman 9)
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