Il Capitano Walt Whitman – America, Civil War. Over the course of the 19th century the country progressed (cambiò) from an agricultural economy concentrated on the Eastern coast to an industrialized nation all over (in tutto) the continent. This new situation provoked changes and the country faced (affront) the problem of creating its own literature based on American issues and imaginations. A newspaper reporter and editor, Walt Whitman, in the early 1850s began experimenting with a mixture of the colloquial diction (linguaggio parlato) and prose rhythms (ritmi) of journalism; the repetitions and catalogues of the Bible; and the musicality and drama of popular opera. He wanted to write a democratic poetry, that gave voice to all the variety of 19th-century American culture. In 1855 Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the book he will revised (revision) and expanded (ampliò) for the rest of his life. The first edition contained only 12 untitled poems. The longest poem, “Song of Myself,” is one of the most discussed poems in all of American poetry. In it Whitman constructs a democratic “I,” a voice that celebrates itself and its senses /sensi) experiencing the world. “I” represents the creative potential of every individual in a democratic society. Emerging from a working class family, Whitman was one of the first working-class American poets and one of the first writers to compose poetry that draws (trae) its energy from the busy (indaffarate ), crowded (affollate), varied streets of the city. Whitman later added (aggiunse) poems about affection (relazioni) between men and about the experiences and sufferings of soldiers in the Civil War (1861-1865). Whitman’s work was initially more successful in Britain than in the United States. An influential 1872 anthology, American Poems, published in England and edited by English literary critic William Michael Rossetti, was dedicated to Whitman. Not only…I think you remember Captain, My captain!, the way the teacher John Keating (Robin William) suggested his students to call him in Dead Poets Society a 1989 American drama film directed by Peter Weir. Well, “O Captain! My Captain!,” is the title of a Walt Whitman poem.
Walt withman was born at West Hills, Long Island, New York. In 1894 he became very disappointed with the democratic party.The result was Leaves of Grass,whose composition took almost all his life.The book developed and changed with the changes and developments of the poet and of his country and he defined his work as “ a passage away to something rather than a thing in itself concluded”.
There are some recurrent themes in Whitman’s works:
• His fondamental theme is the land itself,the real and mystical entity,the United States, representing the expression of the democratic idea in all its forms.
• The poet celebrates democracy as the product of the common people of the nation.
• The poem celebrates the American people.
• He also celebrates the natural scenery of America; ”the poet responds to his country’s spirit…he incarnates its geography and natural life and rivers and lakes”.
• Withman’s love of America does not limit to one country. He celebrates the unity of the peoples of the world.
• One of great themes is Himself, his own feeling and perceptions and intuitions. His poem reveals a quite ingenous and innocent egocentricity.
• The theme of love between man and man and between man and woman. Withman was homosexual.
Whitman was an innovator in his conception of poetry and in his use of free verse. For him poetry was not to have a fixed pattern and form, on the contrary it was a process which was to follow the rhythm of life and the development of the human being, which was subject to continuous changes.
He violated the popular rules of poetic diction. He imported words from foreign languages,from science,from opera and when he could not find the words he wanted,he invented or changed an old word in order.He used assonance,consonance,alliteration and repetition.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing
on the steamboat deck,
The showmaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at
noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her or to none else,
The day what belongs to the day–at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Withman defined himself “an American bard”.
This statemen show the poet’s conception of himself as the prophet who has the task to reveal the truth and sings the glories of his country.For him the poet was a prophet ,someone who saw the essence of things and so served as the spiritual eye of humanity. He felt the need to teach the country morals,and in “Leaves of Grass”he explicitly exhorted his coutry fellow to love nature,to despite wealth,to hate tyrants,to be generous with the poor,to follow the laws of God.
The morals he wanted to teach are one of the subject matters of his poetry together with the exaltion of common people,the nobility of hard manual work,the beauty of nature,but also the greatnees of technology and he charm of crowded cities.
He was very much in love with his nation and felt a strong sense of patriotism: he believe in the democracy and unity of his country. He wrote that he was the poet of men and women,whose equality he exalted,and that he was the poet of the soul as well as of the body.
He was the poet not only of America as a compact nation,but also of the individual.
“When I heard the learned astronomer”
When I heard the learned astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much Applause in the lecture-room, How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, look’d up in perfect silent the stars.
Quando udii il dotto astronomo, Quando le prove e le cifre mi vennero incolonnate dinanzi, Quando mi mostrarono le carte e i diagrammi, da addizionare, dividere, calcolare, Quando seduto nell’anfiteatro udii l’astronomo parlare e venir a lungo applaudito, Come improvvisamente, inesplicabilmente, mi sentii stanco, disgustato, Finché, alzatomi, fuori scivolando me ne uscii tutto solo, Nella mistica umida aria notturna e, di tratto in tratto, Alzavo gli occhi a contemplare in silenzio le stelle.
We can observe from different perspectives: with the mystics,theologians,philosophers and scientists point of view. Each of them interpret celestial phenomena according to their own cultures and opinions. The American poet Walt Withman,in his poem “Leaves of Grass” describe incompatibility between scientist and literary man opinion in the following liryc: “When I heard the learned astronomer”. In this liryc Walt Whitman,on ‘800, expresses his grudge against every attempts of scientist to rationalize life and nature, domaging phantasy and creativity of the artist.