"I hear America singing
," he wrote, "the varied carols I hear." The San Francisco poet Robert Duncan expressed Whitman's democratic ideal nicely when he said that we are living in a Symposium of the Whole, a time when "all the old, excluded orders must be included, the female, the proletariat, the foreign, the animal and vegetable, the unconscious and the unknown, the criminal and failure--all that has been outcast and vagabond."
In I Hear America Singing
! (Knopf), you can find 62 well-loved songs that have stood the test of time.
Having hung out with Whitman for several years now, I've been trying to imagine how the poet--who exulted "I hear America singing
" and who had a penchant for shouting from the rooftop--would have reacted to the military's policy of the zipped lip.
This passage also can be read as a continuation of an intertextual dialogue between Hughes and Wait Whitman: The Weary Blues (1926) included Hughes's famous "I, Too, Sing America," which reversed Whitman's celebratory tone in "I Hear America Singing
." Like the passage cited above from the "Revival" draft, Whitman's poem uses an occupational listing (including mechanic, carpenter, mason, boatman, and shoemaker) to show a common thread of song.
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