"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" as an Example of Romanticism

Essay by eryka_sHigh School, 12th grade May 2006

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Romantic poetry takes interest in nature expressing emotion and imagination. The Walt Whitman poem is an example of this portraying Walt Whitman as a boy who through observing nature learns life's greatest lessons and how to express emotion to become a poet. He observes the oceans tides and the love and loss of the birds. Alongside the male bird, he learns of death and the movement of life through the tides.

Walt Whitman's poem puts a heavy emphasis on the description of nature, especially the sea and that makes it romantic. He compares the sea to a mother describing it in spring, a time of birth. "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle, Out of the nine month midnight..." Cradle rocking shows images of a mother putting a baby to sleep. This coincides with the musical shuffle, which describes the tides and ocean waves.

Tides sounds like breathing and is a bedtime sound. The tide is also an important movement in the poem itself. The nine month midnight describes a pregnancy again confirming the image of birth and motherhood. In this poem, there is never any mention of the boy's mother so the sea becomes the substitute. The boy goes out into nature bareheaded and barefoot, returning to a natural state, that man was born on mother earth in. The boy has no boundaries between him and nature, he is returning to it showing a transcendentalist movement.

One of the movements in the poem is from day to night. In the beginning, Whitman portrays the birds together and in love, basking in the sun in May. The boy watched them, learning of love. The poem suddenly turns to night as the female bird is gone and the male bird looks...