Walt Whitman Research Paper

1323 Words Apr 19th, 2013 6 Pages
Walt Whitman and the Civil War
Walt Whitman is considered one of America’s greatest poets. During his lifetime, Whitman wrote hundreds of poems about life, love and democracy, among many others. In particular, Whitman’s poetry reflects the spirit of the age in which he lived, the Civil War. In taking a closer look at one of his most renowned and brilliant pieces, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”, three particular themes are observed; his love for nature, the cycle of life, as represented by both life and death, and rebirth.
This poem was written around the end of the Civil War and after Abraham Lincoln’s death. As he was the president of the United States at that time, he is considered one of the most important leaders in
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“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is only one of many poems that Whitman wrote to pour out his feelings on the results of the Civil War. The poem was written as an elegy, which according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a style of writing of a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead (Merriam-Webster.com). Whitman wrote this elegy on the death of Abraham Lincoln, though it never really mentions the president by name, as a dramatization of his feeling of loss.
Whitman’s theme of nature in this poem is clearly represented by three different and very specific things; the star, the lilac and the bird, or hermit thrush. Throughout the poem, he uses these objects continuously as symbolic representations of how he truly feels, and these are also an indication of how close he is to nature. The Civil War, in contrast, was anything but natural, or nature-like. Whitman was obviously against war and saddened by all the suffering endured by all of those involved in it. In the first part of the poem, Whitman describes his grief and mourning through his vivid imagery of all three nature symbols. He mentions how as spring returns, the lilacs blossom, and the star "nearly dropp'd in the western sky" (“Lilacs” 2). The star is a symbol for Abraham Lincoln. Whitman mourns the loss of the "powerful western fallen star" now covered

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