JohnRgt

Q regarding Whitman's, "O Me! O Life!"

4 posts in this topic

A recent Apple ad has brought this poem to my attention. Here it is:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Does anyone know what Whitman meant by "identity" in the above?

I took it as a reference to the Law of Identity, meaning Existence is orderly and knowable, that we can indeed come up with a worthwhile verse.

Here's one version of the Apple ad (they use a passage from Dead Poets Society which quotes Whitman):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiyIcz7wUH0

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That you are herethat life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Does anyone know what Whitman meant by "identity" in the above?

I took it as a reference to the Law of Identity, meaning Existence is orderly and knowable, that we can indeed come up with a worthwhile verse.

Knowing Whitman who, in "Song of Myself," dismissed his own contradictions as unimportant, I doubt he meant the law of identity. I think he was more likely referring to an emotional sense of one's own personal identity or selfhood.

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I can't stand poetry that doesn't rhyme. And as for what Whitman means by "identity", Betsy is probably right, but I'm not sure if Whitman seriously meant anything by any of the words in this poem.

Someone I know says her favorite poem is "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer", by Whitman (it's in LEAVES OF GRASS). When I then read it, I thought: Why? Does anyone know what that poem says? It sounded to me like Whitman was saying, "Keep the mysteries of the Universe mysterious" (in other words, don't seek to understand the Universe). My friend agreed.

I would, however, love to read a rhyming poem about how wonderful it is that existence exists, that things have identity and are what they are, that the Universe is orderly. Does anyone know of any?

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