Study Guide

Song of the Open Road Section 4

By Walt Whitman

Section 4

  • Now our speaker is describing what he sees: the earth is expanding in all directions before him, looking alive with each part of it in the best possible light. Basically, it's like he's got the latest model flat screen super-TV in front of him.
  • And how about that stereo sound? The speaker can hear music "falling in where it is wanted and stopping where it is not wanted" (40). That's a neat trick.
  • He also hears the voice of the "public road," with its "gay fresh sentiment" (41).
  • Nineteenth-century vocab alert: "gay" meant nothing more than happy in Whitman's day. And this speaker is nothing if not happy.
  • Now our speaker is back talking to the road again. Apparently, the road is warning the speaker not to leave its well-worn, secure path.
  • Our speaker's not afraid to leave the road, though. It's not the road's fault, however. He still loves the road. (Is there anything this guy doesn't love?)
  • In fact, the road can express the speaker better than he can express himself. Perhaps for that reason, the speaker tells his buddy the road that it is "more to me than my poem" (47)—high praise.
  • The speaker thinks that every heroic deed and every great poem were "conceiv'd in the open air" (48). He thinks he could stop right there on the road and "do miracles" (49)—boast much, Mr. Speaker?
  • He pledges to use the open road to test ("try") all of his thoughts and judgments.
  • He thinks that he's going to like anyone he meets on this road. And everyone who sees him will like him back. How's that for optimism?
  • He decides that everyone he sees on this road will be happy. We're guessing that there must be no tollbooths on this road.

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