Lowell and Whitman

Essay by jessydukeUniversity, Master'sB+, May 2014

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American Literature

A Comparison between James Lowell's "Lowell" and Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"

James Russell Lowell and Walt Whitman are both American poets who have contributed to the emergence of American Literature. Although the technique Lowell used cannot be marked as distinctively American, he is often associated with the Fireside Poets whom were among the first American poets to rival the popularity of British poets. Whitman, on the other hand, greatly influenced twentieth century American poetry; his name and contributions are often associated with poets like Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. Both Lowell and Whitman wrote a poem addressing themselves, however, their style and technique is different. This shall be explored through James Lowell's poem "Lowell" and Whitman's poem "Song of Myself".

In the poem "Lowell", James Lowell satirizes himself. He does not have the feeling that he could ever write great poetry. He likens his struggle to write, to climbing the great Parnassus.

Lowell feels that he is held back by the rules of the critics of poetry which he feels he has to follow. These rules are burdening him. That is why he will never come close to reaching the top of the mountain and even the attempt to climb it suggests great struggle. Lowell's tone throughout this poem reveals his lack of confidence in his own writing abilities. Although Lowell knows that the lyre's cords will ring pretty well, he would rather "by half make a drum of the shell". This gives the reader the feeling that his attempts are doomed to fail; they will never reach greatness. He ends the poem by saying that even if he lives as long as Methusaleh, who lived 960 years, nothing will change. His writing will not get any better.

As for Whitman's "Song of Myself", this poem...