“O Me! O 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?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman is one of the finest poets of the 19th century. His thoughts are so Eastern and philosophical. He is more on self discovery, inner journey and collective growth. He stands odd among the western materialistic achievers. Leaves of Grass is his best work. It’s like Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. His other works such as “Song of Myself”, “I Sing the Body Electric”, “A Noiseless Patient Spider” won’t stand as tall as “Leaves of Grass”. Quoting his poems in the Essay will create a great impression in the mind of Evaluator. It reflects your wide readings and interest in the fine literature. Moreover, When you start reading the works of great souls like Walt Whitman, you will grow along the journey. You will learn the lessons for life.
In the above verse, Whitman questions the futility of life. He raises very basic questions. Through “O Me! O Life”, he presents the conflicts in Self and Life. The poem was set in the backdrop of 1800s rapid industrialisation. Hence, you will see the phrases such as “trains of the faithless” & “of cities fill’d with the foolish”. But the whole poem is more relevant than ever before. He talks about the Ups and Downs of life, success and failures, and also how the fellow members are struggling for the light. The usage of “of” in every line brings the reader more connected to the thoughts of the poet.
At the end, he doesn’t give any specific answer. Rather says, you are HERE. Life is HERE. The Existential force will run the show. You will have to contribute your bit to making the world more beautiful.
You may put your understanding of the poem briefly in the comment section below.