Song of Myself
by Walt Whitman
Song of Myself Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Section)
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. (section 6)
The speaker has been discussing the grass in this section, trying to guess what it means. He thinks it might be a kind of universal symbol or language ("uniform hieroglyphic") that represents the equality for everyone. Grass is a democratic plant because it grows everywhere, and because everyone comes from and eventually returns to it. Black and white, Canadian ("Kanuck") or Native American ("Tuckahoe"), grass is Whitman's vote for official plant of America.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak,
And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table . . . . my firelock leaned in the corner. (section 10)
Trust is the central ingredient for a democracy to flourish. You have to trust your neighbors, even if your neighbor is a runaway slave who is probably very suspicious of you. Whitman doesn't bother to hide his rifle ("firelock") when the runaway comes by his house. He cares for the slave and treats his wounds.
The pure contralto sings in the organloft,
The carpenter dresses his plank . . . . the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their thanksgiving dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whaleboat, lance and harpoon are ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordained with crossed hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars of a Sunday and looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirmed case, (section 15)
A central feature of Whitman's vision of America is that everyone has an important job to fill. Even the "lunatic" has a part to play. People are known by their roles, as if they were names. This section has a long list, or catalogue, of roles from different parts of society, urban and rural, rich and poor.