Thursday, March 21, 2019
Philosophic Thought in Whitmans Song of Myself :: Song of Myself Essays
The Heath Anthology of American Literature repeatedly refers to Walt Whitman and his poetry in terms of being American, yet as I read tenor of Myself, my thoughts argon continually drawn to the philosophies and religions of the Far East. Like the Tao Te Ching ideas are testifyed in enigmatic verse and each stanza is a point koan waiting to be meditated on and puzzled out. Even Emerson called Whitmans poetry a remarkable mixture of the Bhagvat Gita and the New York Herald (The Whitman Project). Song of Myself contains multitudes of passages that express Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist thought. Hinduism is an ancient religion of India and the Bhagvat Gita mentioned above, is among its holy texts. Meditation is emphasized in Hinduism and the point of meditation is explained in a famous metaphor the sagacity is a tree and in this tree there is a toy and a shit. The tamper, called the slippery monkey, races about, chattering constantly. If one can silence the monkey then the bird sin gs. Whitman could be describing the concerns of the slippery monkey when he writes The in vogue(p) news . . . . discoveries, inventions, societies . . . . authors old and new,/ My dinner, dress, associates, looks, business, compliments, dues/ . . . But they are not the Me myself (lines 60-65). A commentary of the bird can be taken from the same passage asunder from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,/ Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary (lines 66-67). Whitman requests of the bird, which he refers to as the intellect Loafe with me on the grass . . . . loose the stop from your throat (line 75). When the bird complies, Whitman writes that the bird plunged . . . tongue to my barestript heart . . ./ Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and exuberate and knowledge that pass all the art and argument of the earth (lines 80-82). By stilling the slippery monkey and hearing the song of the bird one gains information (this is similar to shedding the ego in order to attain paradise in Buddhism. Sidhartha, the founder of Buddhism, was a Hindu before he jilted its tenets). Part of Hindu enlightenment is the realization that all is brahman and Brahma is all. Hinduism is polytheistic, but all its many gods are only aspects of the one God, Brahma.