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smile1's avatar

What is the significance of this poem?

Asked by smile1 (493points) February 7th, 2010

I know fluther generally doesnt “do homework”..

but I’ve been reading over and over these stanzas, trying to see the charateristics of the poem….but I failed miserably at that…

I was wondering if you guys could help with some enlightening?

Heres the poem:
To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume;
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.
-walt whitman

I need to somehow be able to explicate this… recognize some characteristics and explain the significance of the poem…

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22 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

I love Whitman.

SeventhSense's avatar

The Civil War
The grey/brown bird

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

Depends solely on the reader’s interpretation. That’s true of any poem. Here you could simply say it was a poem recounting the beauty of birdsong at night in the wilderness. Or you could go deeper, and try to say how it reveals that beauty is held in the mind’s eye, meaning that the poet could see “long panoramas of visions” just from the scents, sounds, and dim light falling around him, even though he could literally see virtually nothing in the near dark.

Everything is perspective.


Judi's avatar

@SeventhSense ; Perfect answer! Gave a clue that made it make more sense, but didn’t “do” the homework!

SeventhSense's avatar

Loud and strong
Filling the Night ( what bird sings at night?)

faye's avatar

What bird does sing at night?

Judi's avatar

I’m sure a soldier would be frightened by the whistling sound of that “grey brow bird” when it zips past his ear at night.

Darwin's avatar

Consider this: Whitman wrote the poem in 1865. What was going on in his world at that time?

Also, realize that this is only a small part of a longer poem. See stanza 15 here.

And finally, imagine you are outside in the woods at night with comrades, listening to birds singing and smelling the odors of trees and earth. How would it make you feel? Why might you be there? Does it make you feel a part of nature? Or more alone?

Darwin's avatar

@faye – Birds that sing at night include nighthawks, mockingbirds, nightingales, and, of course, owls.

SeventhSense's avatar

Confederate Uniforms

Thanks for the rest

This Dust Was Once the Man

This dust was once the man,
Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,
Was saved the Union of these States.

damn i’m good

faye's avatar

I have heard owls, out camping. I guess I wasn’t calling that singing!!

SeventhSense's avatar

Are we clear it’s about the Civil War now. It’s not entirely subjective.

Kafka's avatar

I agree that Whitman was a poet that dedicated himself to becoming the “great American Poet”. I would describe his as poet that writes from a pastoral tradition. For Whitman as for many other people even through the Civil War it was a time of “innocence”. These are things to consider as much of the diction of the poem is to try and get you to picture the “panorama” that he has laid out before you.

janbb's avatar

Surely the Civil War was a time of the loss of innocence for many people and particularly Whitman (who was not so innocent in any case)?

I’m not familiar with this particular poem but the other lines that @SeventhSense supplies suggest to me that the great grey bird is a metaphor for someone famous. (You might want to look at his poem “O Captain, My Captain”.

Trillian's avatar

@faye Nightingales, whipporwills, owls and loons all sing at night.

SeventhSense's avatar

Stanza 6 & 15 Leaves of Grass/Book XXII

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil’d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the
unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong
and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where amid these
you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.

To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.

nebule's avatar

@faye I think I read somewhere once that robins occasionally sing at night too!

janbb's avatar

It’s pretty clear confiirmation to me from that additional context who I suspected the gray brown bird to be.

SeventhSense's avatar

Do you know the ruby throated hummingbird…
Enough of the fucking birds already.
If you take one line from a poem and try to make sense of it it’s like trying to take one letter from a word and trying to understand its meaning. The entire poem is about a time period and many of the feelings elicited are purely subjective but they overall tell the story about a time and furthermore about a man who was very peculiar for his time and certainly progressive. Apparently he elicited many strong responses to his work. He was both reviled and adored. BTW I live less than 5 minutes from his birthplace. Of course back then it wasn’t across from the mall that bears his name. Kind of funny in itself although his poetry painted into the facade in an interesting kind of way.

nebule's avatar

@SeventhSense was that really necessary???

SeventhSense's avatar

Of course not but that’s what makes me special.
I’m not like the other kids on the playground :)

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