WHITMAN'S POETIC STYLE: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
INTRODUCTION: Whitman is not only the greatest poet of America but also one of the greatest poets of the world. Democracy is the keynote of his poetry. In his poetry we find newness. As a revolutionary poet, he gives voice to the new urges and aspirations of man in an age of science and democracy. His contribution to the American poetry is praiseworthy. He earned wide acclaim for his technical innovations.
AS TECHNICAL INNOVATOR: So for as the poetic technique is concerned, Whitman is a revolutionary technical innovator. He is the greatest American practitioner of verse Libra. Writing in the 19th century, he anticipates some of the most vital and daring technical innovations of the 20th century. He does not write in any metre, but his is cadenced verse.
LANGUAGE AND DICTION: Whitman is a great innovator not only in the field of his subject matter but also in the field of language and diction too. In this context he can be compared with Wordsworth. His poetry was a new kind of poetry. Thus it required a new kind of language. In order to increase the expressive range of his language, he freely used words taken from trade, commerce and business of America. He imported words from foreign languages. He did not hesitate even to introduce slang, vulgarism and colloquialism into the language of his poetry. His omnivorous long lines convey the masses of America and their lives. His peculiar style is admirably suited to his purposes. In short, his language is fresh and original.
WORDS AND LINES: The word choice of Whitman was very good. Often he makes free use of words from factories and farms and trades. He freely coins new words. He takes words from the French and the Spanish. He distorts and adapts them to his own uses. Thus in his language there is a fantastic mixture of words taken from different levels and contexts. The result is often incongruous, grotesque and comic. He is fond of verse Libra. He does write in any particular metre but his is cadenced verse. The individual line in his poetry shows independent entity. It is complete in itself. This independence is especially noticeable in the catalogues where image follows image as line follows line. Such independence is not confined by metrical pattern or rhyme. The lines have a natural and swift movement.
VERSIFICATION: Whitman's versification is as unconventional as his language. It is equally suited to his purpose. He was the first poet to exploit to the full the possibilities of free verse. There is a rare compatibility between his forms and his themes. He even employed some of the traditional devices as assonance, alliteration, repetition, inverse word order, parallelism and many others. Though this poet freed himself from the measured foot, his poetry is filled with a rhythm of its own. His free verse captures the very rhythms of American speech. It reflects the American freedom and break from tradition. The movement of his verse is the sweeping movement of great currents of loving people.
IMAGERY AND SYMBOLISM: Whitman's poems have a number of recurring images. At each repetition the image gathers more meaning till at last it comes before us as a symbol. His major images are the grass, the sea, the bird, the celestial bodies and the like. In fact, Whitman was a symbolist long before symbolism became a conscious movement in Europe. Thus his poetry is highly symbolistic. He used symbolism to communicate his apprehension of the mystery of the universe. These symbols are flexible and ambiguous. In the 'Leaves of Grass' certain images appear again and again. They become symbols of major significance. Here grass is the central symbol. It is the part of the title of the poem.
CONCLUSION: Thus, Whitman was a painstaking artist. He carefully revised and re-revised his material till perfection was achieved. His peculiar style suits to his purposes. It is a curious mixture of a number of discordant elements. That is why, it provoked different reactions. It has been ecstatically praised as well as vehemently condemned.