Walt Whitman Essay Research Paper In parting

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Walt Whitman Essay, Research Paper In parting with traditional poetic formalities, Walt Whitman alleviated a burden that impeded his ability to achieve full poetic expression. To Whitman, the strict boundaries that formal meter, structure, and rhyme imposed set limits on his stylistic freedom. This is not to say that these limits prevented Whitman from conveying his themes. Rather, they presented a contradiction to which Whitman refused to conform. In Whitman?s eyes, to meet these formal guidelines one would also have to sacrifice the ability to express qualities and passion of living men. Thus, Whitman contested traditional poetic protocol because it added a layer of superficiality that concerned itself with creating perfect rhythmical, metrical, and structural poetry. It

was this end that bothered Whitman, for he believed that each word in a poem should serve only one purpose: "to harmonize with the name, nature, and drift of the poem". To understand exactly what characteristics of traditional poetic rules posed such problems for Whitman, we must establish a working definition of what this means. Traditional poetic rules are those determined through the history of British poetry . This statement in itself leaves much latitude for interpretation. For the sake of comparison, generalizations must be made. First of all, traditional British poetry adhered to a specific meter, a common example being the iambic foot (unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). Whatever the chosen meter, these patterns were more or less consistent

throughout the course of the poem. Similarly, in a traditional British poem, it was desired that each of the lines have the same amount of feet (for example the Shakespearean sonnet written in iambic pentameter, meaning five feet or iambs). Along these same lines, traditional poets valued a concise and logical structure. This meant that stanzas consisted of a predetermined amount of lines or that the poem had a predetermined amount of stanzas. Augmenting this formal structure were predetermined rhyme schemes (such as ?abab cdcd efef gg? in Shakespearean sonnets). Based on the above, we can describe traditional poetic etiquette as adhering to the suggested formal patterns predetermined by the tradition of British poetry. Just in reaching the above conclusion, a problem arises that

all poets, not just Whitman, face when trying to conform to this style. This problem is that all of these rules are cumbersome. It is difficult for a poet to convey the theme of a poem when he or she is concerned with whether or not each word fits into a designated formal pattern. Yet, some would argue that this is what makes poetry such an elegant art form. Surely, Whitman recognized the genius found in Shakespeare?s sonnets and other constitutive examples of traditional British poetry. However, whether or not Whitman recognized the genius of great traditional British poets, is inconsequential. What did matter was whether or not Whitman felt that this style was appropriate for him. The answer is no. Whitman found problems not simply with the fact that clinging to the traditional

style might be burdensome (surely this would not have been an insurmountable task for Whitman), but his main issue with traditional style concerned the ornamental effect of formal regularity: "In future Leaves of Grass. Be more severe with the final revisions of the poem, nothing will do, not one word or sentence that is not perfectly clear– with positive purpose– harmony with the name, nature, drift of the poem. Also, no ornaments, especially no ornamental adjectives, unless they have come molten hot, and imperiously prove themselves. No ornamental similes at all?not one; perfect transparent clearness, sanity, and health are wanted?that is the divine style?O of it can be attained." In the above quote we see the essence of Whitman?s ideology towards the ?divine