Study Guide

Song of Myself Section 36

By Walt Whitman

Section 36

  • The vignette of the sea battle continues.
  • The British have surrendered at midnight, but there's just one problem: the American ship is sinking.
  • They need to move everyone and everything to the British ship, which remains intact.
  • For a while, it seems that Whitman is close to glorifying war and bloodshed, but suddenly he turns his attention to the aftermath of the battle, and we see all the destruction it has wrought.
  • The ship is a mess, completely tattered and destroyed. But more importantly, there are dead bodies all over the place.
  • For the second time in the poem, he describes the awful sound of amputation. The ship's surgeon has to use a saw to remove an injured limb.
  • Here Whitman's cocky tone becomes somber and serious. He is clearly moved and disturbed by this vision, which he calls "irretrievable."