Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Introduction to "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"

1.) "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," originally entitled "A Child's Reminiscence" by Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass part of the "Sea Drift" section. 1891-2 ed.

2.) "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" is set on the beach, which is referred to in the poem as Paumanok. The poem begins with an older man whom "A man, yet by these tears a little boy again" (23). The poem is about a young boy's first encounter with death. It is also about two mated mockingbirds who make their home on the beach. In the poem Whitman gives a voice to the male mockingbird through italics; the boy in the poem interprets the mockingbird's song for us. In the poem one day the female bird leaves the nest and never comes back. The male bird in grief calls out persistently for his mate, who never returns. In the poem the male mockingbird introduces the young boy to death. Deducing from the language used in the very beginning of the poem I think that the person the young boy is grieving for is his mother: "Out of the ninth month midnight" (3). However, the poem can also be read another way, it could also be about the poet looking back at his first encounter with death and mourning that loss of innocence. There is a definite feel of the poet and his language, after all the poet was once the boy, who became the man, who eventually became the poet. And it was the experiences in life that have shaped the poet. The poem is all about the loss of innocence when a young child has his first encounter with death. It is a poem about dealing with the loss of someone close that you love.

Here is a link to the poem online http://www.bartleby.com/142/212.html

3.) I picked this poem because it is one of my favorite poems that I have read by Whitman, it is a elegy, which makes it a very sad poem, yet it is also a complex poem. Reading this poem made me think about my first encounter when grieving for a lost loved one, and I found that I could really connect with the poem. I really love Whitman's use of imagery in the poem, while reading it I can hear the sound of the ocean on a dark night. Whitman uses language to convey the movement of the waves in the lines of the poems by using enjambment. I like the fact the this poem is complex and that every time I read it I take out something very different from the poem.

4.) I would have to say that "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" reminded me of "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold (pg 104) because the setting of both poems is on a beach by the sea at night. But both poems have a deeper meaning. "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" is about grief from loss of a loved one and dealing with that grief, the young boy in the poem is questioning death and loss. In "Dover Beach" Arnold is comparing the sea to religion and faith and how it has been slowly washing away, and in his own way Arnold is coping with loss, and in his own way is grieving about the dwindling faith of religion, he seems to be questioning his own faith in the poem as well.

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