The poet tells us that he feels more at home with animals than humans, whom he finds complicated and false.
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are
so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with
the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that
lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince
them plainly in their possession
I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?
[From SONG OF MYSELF in Leaves of Grass]
Walt Whitman (1819 – 92) is a major figure in early American poetry. In an age when all poetry was rhymed and metrical, Whitman made a break with tradition and wrote a revolutionary new kind of poetry in free verse. He was a nonconformist in all respects, including his social life.
The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.