Comment 1 of 209, added on September 26th, 2005 at 1:14 AM.
This poem coming from the "calamus" series, most likely deals with
Whitman's struggle to come to terms with his sexual identity. The
homosexual connotations in this poem are unmistakable--not neccessarily of
erotic nature but rather the dilemma of "comming out," the consequences of
doing so, and of not.
Grow up taller sweet leaves that I may see! grow
up out of my breast! Spring away from the
conceal'd heart there!....Do not remain down there
so ashamed, herbage of my brest!...I am determin'd
to unbare this broad breast of mine, I have long
enough stifled and choked...(17-22).
The imagerary in this passage is profound; the herbage can easily come to
represent Whitman's homosexuality or that of which conceals it.
Whitman struggled conceal his sexuality for many years, according to
Wikipedia Encyclopedia, "He even went so far as to invent six illegitimate
children to correct his public image. Also in poems such as "Once I pass'd
Through a Populous City," he changed the gender of his lover. The poem
under superficial analysis becomes a re-telling of a heterosexual love
affair, but even though the pronouns are changed, if closer attention is
paid to the poem itself there is an inherent tension that is almost
exclusive to gay relationships.
Despite Whitman's tendancy to cover up his homosexual identity, the calamus
poems are seen by many as his so called "comming out." It is said that
these were written after one of Whitman's failed gay relationships. This
poem in particular, (Scented Herbage) portrays Whitman's life as a
heterosexual facade,death represents his true identity,(to be openly gay in
19th century America is to give up life, or at least public recognition.
"Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all, and are
folded inseparably together, you love and death are, Nor will I allow you
to balk me any more with what I was calling life (28-30). It seems as this
poem is a declaration to accept thyself, not to fear death, and to no
longer live a life of clandestinity.
You beyond them come forth to remain, the real
reality...That you will perhaps dissipate this
entire show of appearance, That may-be you are
what is it all for, but it does not last so very
long, but you will last very long (33-38).
my english-major translation of this passage is as follows:
The so-called "life" I have led in the closet, a life of denial, shame, and
self-loathing, a life of superficial normativity, this fake life is not one
of longevity. My true self will emerge for it is thy own--innate and
from United States