“Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward
and city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors
old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or
loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful
news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.” – Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”
What makes someone’s actual self? Whitman, in the beginning of the fourth section, begins to express the various things that make up a person but tries to stress that these things are not the actual person – emphasizing the difference between the components of an ingredient and the finished product.
One of the things that makes Whitman such a pleasurable read (for me, at least) is his style. He uses a long, sing-song approach, with many different, yet relative, thoughts that are eventually surmised by a singular point. His “song”style is highlighted by the contrasting sounds of the words – note the D’s, S’s and C sounds – and the pauses caused by comma placement. The required breaths Whitman makes us indulge in forces us to feel the nature he is writing about by breathing.
While they may not be writing about the exact same sort of things, Whitman and Emily Dickinson share a similar, auditory sound in their poetry. Whitman’s use of commas and Dickinson’s use of hyphens make the reader, or the speaker, take a required breath which impacts the meaning or flow of the poetry.