Blog series · Poetry

Animals – Walt Whitman | Poetry Analysis

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Born on 31 March, 1819, (quoting Wikipedia) “Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.” He died on 26 March, 1892.
(Image from Goodreads)

The poem Animals is from his work ‘Song of Myself’ in the Leaves of grass. Here, as the first line implies, the poet desires to live in the company of animals rather than humans as he finds humans complicated and false. Human follies like greed, violence, hypocrisy, dishonesty cunningness and cravings for owning things appear sickening to the poet.

Over the subsequent lines, he emphasises on how animals do not complain or discuss their duty to God like humans do. He is in awe of animals for their ability to be satisfied with whatever they have unlike humans who always want more. The lines,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things

conveys the same. He goes on comparing animals to humans mentioning why he thinks they are better. In the fourth stanza, we come across a rather peculiar and regretful idea where the poet hints at that the fact that animals represent humans in a way. The doubtful tone here indicates that the poet is pondering on how animals possess virtues that humans once possessed themselves i.e kindness, contentment, selflessness etc. The line

Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

implies the same. Moving on, in the subsequent lines, the poet describes a stallion with rich imagery and descriptive details, both figuratively and literally.

Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?

To conclude, quoting WP Whitmanweb, “Whitman neatly illustrates the division between the mind and body, first defining animals through their apparent lack of anxiety about faith, wealth, social status, then querying his relationship to them, the tokens of himself “in their possession” perhaps from long, long ago, and then describing, in loving, “brotherly terms,” a magnificent stallion, on which he will race and return, galloping beyond and back into himself, together and then alone.”

Poetic devices in this poem include uniform personification, repetition and alliteration.

Referred Sources:
WP Whitmanweb
Learn Cram
Study Rankers
Poetry Foundation

This is one of my favourite poems and I loved Whitman’s writing style, expressions and the general tone of complex emotions here. Feel free to comment any required additions, errors etc. Thank you so much!


13 thoughts on “Animals – Walt Whitman | Poetry Analysis

  1. This poem is really interesting and we have it in our textbook as well. Unfortunately, we had only an excerpt. Glad I could read all of it, ohh and a bonus overview as well.😂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow this poem was really interesting and thought-provoking. I love how he used imagery to describe that stallion!
    I enjoyed reading your overview of this! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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