The Reminiscing Poet

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade August 2001

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The Reminiscing Poet The poem, Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking, by Walt Whitman, is, superficially, on the subject of Whitman's origin and evolution as a person and as a poet. This story of affection and bereavement can be seen as a production of individual occurrences and feelings. The transformation of the bird from a jolly vocalist to a mournful soloist of darkness corresponds directly to the feelings that Whitman himself was experiencing. Whitman links the loss of jubilation in the song of the bird to the surfacing of the "outsetting bard of love" that he makes present through this text. This poem is a way in which Whitman attempts to resolve the dualities present in the text and in life: life and death, child and man, naïveté and complexity, past and present. Whitman, along with the innocent boy in the poem, falls from naïveté into self-consciousness.

This poem, in my opinion, is very closely related to The Raven by Poe; in that both of the works seek to gain a sense of control over the feelings of bereavement. The boy in the poem is merely a vehicle for translation, and his naïve, inquisitive sense used only to produce the point that Whitman compensated his feelings and recovered only by means of poetic expression. Whitman takes the experiences of his life as a child, and brings them to the reader, as a mature poet, in order to explain his personal crises and the sensations that stimulated not only the young boy, but also the mature poet that Whitman became. The "unsatisfied love" and the "unknown want" that Whitman seeks to communicate can never be fully contented. Whitman's doubt and insecurity about the fate of himself and the world around him, and about his destiny as a man and as a poet are made quite clear through the words of the young boy. The young boy perceives the bird so naively in the beginning, focusing only on the aria of the animal, and then eventually, having aged, the narrator understands sadness that was brought about by the loss of the birds love; which in turn brings the reader to understand the growth that has taken place in Whitman as a man and as a poet.