I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Summary

The poem underscores Whitman’s basic attitude towards America ,which is part of his ideal human life. The American nation has based its faith on the creativeness of labour which is glorified in the poem. The catalogue of craftsmen covers not only the length and breadth of the American continent but also the large and varied field of American achievement. This poem expresses Whitman’s love of America-its vitality, variety and the massive achievement which is the outcome of the creative endeavor of its entire people. It also illustrates Whitman’s technique of using catalogues consisting of a list of people.

The poet hears the varied carols of all the people who contribute to the life and culture of America. The mechanic, the carpenter, the mason, the boatman, the shoe maker and the wood cutter all join in the chorus of the nation. The singing of the mother, the wife and the girl at work expresses their joy and their feeling of fruition. They are highly individualistic men and women. Each person sings ‘what belongs to him or her and to none else.’ At night young men sing loud ‘melodious ‘ songs. All of the workers mentioned are that of the labour class, they do manual labour not desk work. Most likely they all ‘sing’ because the work they do causes some sort of sound. Whitman is emphasising that each man can have pride in what he does, even if he doesn’t make a lot of money .Each one is important to contribute to the strength of this country. He recognises the value of women’s work. Whitman shows the value of work in the American society.

This poem elucidates that an individual had a particular role to play on the society in which he\she thrives. He encourages industry in America to be heard as something pleasant ,as a chorus of many songs. The poet decides to glorify and celebrate work as well as a perception of nationalism. Whitman is celebrating the greatness of America by celebrating the greatness of its individuals. The democratic nature of Whitman’s poetry is reflected by his subject matter. He celebrates mechanics, carpenter s, masons, mothers-the type of people usually not discussed in poems. For Whitman, it is the individual freedom that allows him to be great.

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