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Quotes

Quote #1

The atmosphere is not a perfume . . . . it has no taste of the distillation . . . . it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever . . . . I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echos, ripples, and buzzed whispers . . . . loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine, (section 1)

Sex is both a metaphor and not a metaphor in "Song of Myself." You have to be careful about interpreting passages like this one. This passage is clearly erotic and expresses sexual desire, but it does not discuss specific acts of sex. Whitman rarely does. Instead, sexuality is a means of joining to the world. The world is charged with sexuality: "loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine."

Quote #2

I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning;
You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestript heart,
And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet. (section 5)

Here, again, he describes sex that's not really sex. Yes, he gets naked with his soul and their bodies join, but the passage is mystical, mysterious, and symbolic. Whitman's poetry has sometimes been called "autoerotic," because he is fascinated by his own sexuality as much as by other people's.

Quote #3

Smile O voluptuous coolbreathed earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset! Earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!
Far-swooping elbowed earth! Rich apple-blossomed earth!
Smile, for your lover comes!

Prodigal! you have given me love! . . . . therefore I to you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love!

Thruster holding me tight and that I hold tight!
We hurt each other as the bridegroom and the bride hurt each other. (section 21)

The last lines of this section were controversial in Whitman's day, and he removed them in later versions of "Song of Myself." He compares his relationship to the earth with two newly weds in sexual union. He is the romantic "lover" of the world.

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