Study Guide

Song of the Open Road Section 8

By Walt Whitman

Section 8

  • In this section, the speaker is still going on about the "efflux [outpouring] of the Soul" (106).
  • This outpouring is happiness, he says. It flows out and fills the air and then waits until it flows back into folks. It's sort of like a cycle of happiness, flowing out and back in again.
  • Out here—still on the open road—the speaker finds "the fluid and attaching character" (109). This is a bit like that flowing happiness he was just describing. Now it's also "the freshness and sweetness of man and woman" (110). This freshness sprouts forth "continually out of itself" (112) every day.
  • Also, this same freshness and sweetness attracts "the sweat of the love of young and old" (113)—ew.
  • Actually, you won't be shocked to read that our speaker thinks that this is a good thing. That's because, metaphorically speaking, the sweat distills into charm. That charm, in turn, mocks things like beauty and material objects.
  • Finally, we learn that toward the charm is moving "the shuddering longing ache of contact" (115).
  • Man, there are fluids and feelings flying all over the place here. Let's quickly recap:
  • Out here on the open road is where the soul flows freely, sending happiness into the air and creating a kind of fresh sweetness that attracts the love-sweat of both young and old people. That love-sweat turns into a kind of charm that doesn't buy into superficial notions of beauty or possessions. Instead, it attracts a deep need for connection.
  • To put it simply (too late, we know), the open road is where it's at.

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