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Quotes

Quote #4

I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me. (lines 62-64)

Most of the time, the speaker just accepts things as they come and doesn't ask questions. But every once in a while, he becomes overwhelmed by the strangeness of the world. He questions the way things are, and probably his own emotions, as well. It's a funny thing about these "questionings": everyone has them, but everyone likes to think that no one else has them.

Quote #5

It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety, (lines 72-74)

The speaker accepts evil as a necessary or inescapable part of the world. As a poet, Whitman protests against the feelings of guilt and shame that came down through the tradition of Protestant religion in America. He's like, "It's OK to be a little evil!"

Quote #6

Every thing indicates – the smallest does, and the largest does,
A necessary film envelops all, and envelops the Soul for a proper time. (lines 98-99)

Whitman's view is one that a biologist would probably approve of: we learn about the world by observing nature. The small things can provide just as much knowledge as the big things do. In the end, he seems to be saying, there is no big or small. Everything is contained by this "necessary film" which envelops the world – or, as we like to think of it, which coats the world like grease on a pan.

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