Song Of Myself As An Epic Poem

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Alex Fradkin
Dr. Osburg
Trends in American Literature
March 2, 2003
“Song of Myself” as an Epic Poem
There are many concepts and characteristics that define an epic. However, some criteria are simply more important than others. This is why Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” can be considered as an epic poem due to its ability to meet the most important requirements of an epic. Although it does so through a very intricate method, “Song of Myself” contains both a hero and an antagonist, thus meeting the basic requirement for an epic poem. The hero, although vague, is apparent – it is everyone. From the reader to the lowly runaway slave, everyone who sees the beauty of the world through Whitman’s eyes can be considered a hero. However, since it can be said that the hero is everyone and anyone, it can also be said that no one is the hero. And so in contrast to Whitman’s protagonist, the antagonist in this poem is anyone and everyone who does not share Whitman’s ideas and views on the world. It is anyone who makes these universal “thoughts of all men and lands” nothing. Thus, Whitman’s poem portrays the main definitive characteristics of an epic. Also Whitman’s use of elevated language and style to represent his concept of utter unity within the world all but secures “Song of Myself” as an epic poem. Use of repetition, which creates a certain beauty and rhythm within the work. Throughout the 33rd Stanza, he begins his lines with repeated phrases such as “over the…” and “where the…” Such repetitions create a certain unity and connection between his many images of animals and foods, thus furthering the concept that all is one. “Where the panther…where the rattlesnake…where the black bear…where the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs (33.11-30). Through such elevated imagery, he unites everything with everyone, the physical and the metaphysical, the worldly and the heavenly – nothing is ever separate from anything. “I am the poet of...