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The America’s “world poet” and a modern-day successor to writers like Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare, Walt Whitman was a prominent American poet, teacher, journalist, and also a nursing volunteer during the Civil War. He was a voracious reader and was largely self-educated. Whitman’s poetry was innovative for its verse style and for the way it challenged traditional narratives. He often presented himself as a rough, tough, and free-spirited man and advocated for individualism over social norms. His influence on American literature over the past century is priceless. Whitman’s poetry resounds with the present-day American youth and today he is considered a symbol of American democracy. Elegy was the precise path through which Whitman could scrutinize and break away from the usual cliched, forged mourning of the age. An elegy is a poem of serious reflection that is usually a lament for the dead. ‘When the Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d’ is one of Whitman’s famous elegies and here he mourns the assassination of the then-President Abraham Lincoln. Both Lincoln and Whitman were deeply patriotic and they were connected by the similar ideology of making their American ideals into reality. Whitman is also famous for his patriotic poems like ‘I Hear America Singing’. Patriotic poems are those poems that speak out for the freedom of the country, expressing gratitude and pride for those in the past and present who have helped in making a better country to live in. Whitman strived for unity and togetherness. He believed that it was the similarities between all the people that could bring them towards the achievement of their common goal instead of the differences which pushed them apart. And this poem portrays the unity and patriotism of Americans.
Wystan Hugh Auden, the 20th-century leading literary influencer, was an English-born American poet. Auden is noted for his style and technical achievements in his poetry. Morals, politics and, social and psychological orientations were his central theme. Other than this, religious and scientific themes burn throughout his poems. It helped him analyse and comprehend an individual’s life in correspondence with society and the basic human condition in general. He used imagery and sometimes employed terms in clinical psychoanalysis and was probably the first poet in English to do the same. Auden’s ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’, was written lamenting the loss of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. W.B Yeats was a pillar in the Irish literary establishment and helped in the formation of the Abbey Theatre. Throughout his career, Yeats structured his poems with allusive verses and symbolism.
The first black American writer to earn his living from writing, James Mercer Langston Hughes, was an American poet who became one of the earliest pioneers of the then-new ‘Jazz poetry’ art form. He had a strong sense of racial pride among the other activists in the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes was among those wide-known leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. Through his works, Hughes promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice; and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality. For Hughes, ‘patriotism is the highest form of love of neighbor.’ In his poem ‘Let America Be America Again’, patriotism is not the same as nationalism and the poem slashes the bone of the unrealized potential of our polity.
In this paper, we discuss Walt Whitman and analyse his poems, ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d’ and ‘I Hear America Singing’. We also analyse two other poems with similar themes, namely ‘In Memory of W.B. Yeats’ and ‘Let America Be America Again’, and compare the treatment of the similar themes in these poems.
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