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Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs

Walt Whitman was the American poet who represented the transcendentalist movement in the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism’s general belief is that human senses are not enough to provide the profound truth as they are limited to physical knowledge of life. Rueben concludes transcendentalism as “the intuitive faculty, instead of the rational or sensical, a conscious union of the individual psyche with the world psyche, known as God” (124). This paper aims to discuss how the fundamental beliefs of transcendentalism are reflected in Whitman’s poetry.

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One of the transcendental beliefs that found a place in Whitman’s poetry is the idea of an individual being the spiritual center of existence and the knowledge creator. In Song of Myself, Whitman (1855) confirms his life’s value because of the poetry. He writes: “Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems” (Whitman 30). Moreover, the poem One’s-Self I Sing (Whitman, 1867) states, “not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse.” It reveals Whitman’s belief in the fact that an individual is a spiritual center.

Another transcendental belief affected Whitman’s poetry is the symbolism of nature. Transcendentalists claimed that nature is mystical and unexplored, so that many concepts can be described through nature. The poem When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d describes the life cycle that ends with death by comparing it with lilacs. Whitman (1865) mentions that “lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west” (76). Besides, in the poem Passage to India, the Earth is described as swimming in space (Whitman, 1837). It shows that the nature in Whitman’s understanding is abstract and symbolic.

The basic transcendentalism’s beliefs undoubtedly affected Whitman’s poetry with their statements about an individual’s role in the existence and the symbolism of nature. He reflected these ideas through the topics and problems discussed in the poems. Whitman’s poetry book Leaves of Grass is the symbol of transcendentalists. His legacy reveals how the ideas supported by the movement were applied in the life of the nineteenth century.

Works Cited

Reuben, Paul P. PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide, an Ongoing Project. California State University, 1995.

Whitman, Walt. Walt Whitman Poetry Book. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 10). Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 10). Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs. https://studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/

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"Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs." StudyCorgi, 10 Jan. 2022, studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs." January 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/.


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StudyCorgi. "Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs." January 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs." January 10, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/walt-whitmans-poetry-transcendentalism-beliefs/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Walt Whitman’s Poetry: Transcendentalism Beliefs'. 10 January.

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