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Symbol Analysis

"Song of Myself" did not originally have a title, but people probably thought it was titled Leaves of Grass, which is the name of the book in which it was published. It was the first poem in that book, and grass is one of its central images. You could think of the speaker narrating the entire poem while sitting in the grass with his soul. Grass is an image of hope, growth, and death. According to the speaker, the bodies of countless dead people lie under the grass we walk on, but they also live on and speak through this grass.

  • Title: The title of the book in which "Song of Myself" appears, Leaves of Grass, is a pun on the meaning of "leaves" as the green things on plants, and also as the pages of a book.
  • Section 1: The speaker states his intention to look at a "spear" of summer grass. The word "spear" is suggestive of a weapon. Is the entire poem about a single blade of grass?
  • Section 6: This is the most important section concerning grass in the poem. He describes grass as a symbol of his "hopeful" disposition. The grass is also metaphorically a child of other plants and the "handkerchief" of God, left as a token of God's presence. Most importantly, the speaker uses a metaphor comparing the grass to "the beautiful uncut hair of graves." The earth is a grave because the soil is made up partly of decomposed bodies. The idea of dead life supporting new life is crucial.
  • Section 31: He revisits the phrase "leaf of grass" and says that the grass is the "journeywork of the stars." "Journeywork" is work done by an experienced craftsman, so the stars are being compared implicitly to craftsmen.
  • Section 49: He addresses the grass of graves through apostrophe, "O grass of graves."
  • Section 52: Whitman gives or "bequeaths" himself to "the grass I love." This line returns to the image of the grass as graves.
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