Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jennica for November Fifth

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 12:49 am on Thursday, November 5, 2009
Pensive on Her Dead Gazing

PENSIVE, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of All,

Desperate, on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battle-fields gazing;
(As the last gun ceased—but the scent of the powder-smoke linger’d; )
As she call’d to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk’d:
Absorb them well, O my earth, she cried—I charge you, lose not my sons! lose not an atom; 5
And you streams, absorb them well, taking their dear blood;
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly,
And all you essences of soil and growth—and you, my rivers’ depths;
And you, mountain sides—and the woods where my dear children’s blood, trickling, redden’d;
And you trees, down in your roots, to bequeath to all future trees, 10
My dead absorb—my young men’s beautiful bodies absorb—and their precious, precious, precious blood;
Which holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give me, many a year hence,
In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence;
In blowing airs from the fields, back again give me my darlings—give my immortal heroes;
Exhale me them centuries hence—breathe me their breath—let not an atom be lost; 15
O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet!
Exhale them perennial, sweet death, years, centuries hence.

After reading Whitman’s “Pensive on Her Dead Gazing” from SONGS OF PARTING, (though it may be a bit of a stretch) I personally heard Whitman’s mother, Louisa Van Velsor, through the image of Mother of All or in other words, Mother Nature. I think this poem could be read in three ways: Mother of All as Mother Nature;  Mother of All as Louisa Van Velsor; Mother of All as mothers of all people. If reading it the second way, Whitman would be personifying Mother Nature.

According to Whitman’s biography, when his brother went to war there are evidences of Louisa sending Whitman and her other sons letters filled with anxiety and love. In this sense, with a psychoautobiographical approach, it may be Whitman secretly expressing his feelings during the time of war. This may be a poem dedicated to his mother who was worried sick at the time.

Or if we read the poem the latter way where Whitman personifies Mother Nature as mothers of all sons who went to war, we would definitely be able to see the correlation. The diction and imagery Whitman uses are so genuine and heartfelt.

By and by, I was moved after reading this poem. It has so much power and strong descriptions of death and realities of war that it seems so real. As if the war is happening right in front of my eyes. I could almost feel the earth trembling beneath me. I think this is one of Whitman’s greatest styles in his poetry: making the text come to life.

1 Comment »


Comment by kevinv

November 8, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

I can certainly see if the poem was about his mothers feelings during her son’s service. Great connection between the two.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Skip to toolbar