Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
I. Whitman and his works
; He was a catalog of American and European thought and was susceptible to many
influences, such as, the Enlightenment and its ideals of the rights and dignity of
the individual, toleration, humanitarianism and cosmopolitanism, idealism, the
Transcendentalism, German philosophy;especially Hegel’s doctrine of a cosmic
, science, consciousness with emphasis on cohesiveness and social solidarity；
pantheism, the idea of progress, and current American life with its western
; He seemed to keep his eyes on society at large comparing with Dickinson. ; His masterpiece “Leaves of Grass”;the collection of over 400 poems, has been
praised as “Democratic Bible” and as American Epic；
？ About his poem:
1) The fundamental ideas which were prevalent in America at the time pervade
all Whitman’s poems, such as, general mysticism and anti-rationalism,
pantheism, and the theory of “the Great Chain of Being”.
2) In his poems he extols the ideals of equality and democracy and celebrates the
dignity, the self-reliant spirit and the joy of the common man. Song of Myself
reveals a world of equality, without rank and hierarchy.
3) Thematically he extolled an emergent America, its expansion, its
individualism and its Americanness.
4) In technical terms, he added to the literary independence of the new nation by
breaking free of the convention of the iambic pentameter and exhibiting a
freedom in form unknown before: they were pioneers in American poetry
pointing to Ezra Pound and the Imagists.
II. Imagery and Tone
1. Imagery is the use of descriptive language to recreate sensory experiences. An image is a verbal picture of an object, action, abstract idea, or sensation. It is often created by using figures of speech. There are ways making an idea or picture come closer into focus by relating the idea or experience to another that may be more familiar to the reader.
2. Tone is inferred by the reader through the word choice, the connotation of those words, the verse form, the rhyme, the figurative language and the allusions.
III. Free Verse
; Free verse, also known as “open form” verse, is the verse without regular meter,
line length, rhyme(scheme), or stanza form, depending on natural speech rhythms
related to the actual cadence of the poet expressing himself.
II. Characteristics of Poetry
• Concentration and intensity are two of the qualities that distinguish the
poetic treatment of a subject from its treatment on prose.
• Poetry is characterized by the following elements: a musical effect created by
rhythm and sounds, a precise and fresh imagery, and multiple levels of
interpretation suggested by the connotation of the closer words and allusions.
(the ultimate aim of a poet, is to integrate all of these elements in order to
produce a verbal statement in which everything form overall shape to
individual word-choice is organically related in the most precise way
Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)
； Comparing with Whitman, Dickinson explores the inner life of the individual
and pays attention to only one region “New England”. Her poetry
characterizes with the concise, direct and simple diction and syntax. 1) One third of her poetry concerns death and immortality.
2) Her nature poems are great in number and rich in matter and she sees nature
as both gaily benevolent and cruel.
3) On the ethical level she emphasizes free-will and human responsibility. 4) Like Emerson she holds that beauty, truth and goodness are ultimately one. 1) Sources: Dickinson enjoyed the Bible, English writers Shakespeare, Milton,
Dickens, Browning, Keats, George Herbert, George Eliot, Thomas Carlyle. 2) Themes: wholly original, from her personal experiences, love, nature,
friendship, death, immortality, war, god, religious belief, humor, literature,
• Abundant use of dashes, irregular and idiosyncratic punctuation and
capitalization. Clear-cut, delicately original imagery, precise and simple
diction, fragmentary and enigmatic metrical pattern.
• Short poetic lines, condensed by using intense metaphors and by extensive
use of ellipsis.
• Conventional meters, iambic tetrameter, off-rhymes.
• Visual and audible effects, great imagination, sincere emotions.