I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics-each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat-the deckhand singing on the steamboat
deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench-the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song-the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon
intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother-or of the young wife at work-or of the girl sewing or
washing-Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day-At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

72 Comments

  1. Jordan says:

    I am doing a Term Paper on Whitman and 2 poems by him! O Captain My Captain and I Hear America Singing! They are such great poems! He is really amazing with his works!!

  2. Alexander says:

    I would like to comment that i view this poem as a symbol of American nationalism. It seems to me that Whitman is using singing as a symbol of the sounds that working creates, turning the sounds of industry into music. But at the same time he is portraying a happy world. It’s obviusly about the American Dream, but it is also about finding joy in your work. The main issue i have with the poem is within the two sentences: “The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat – the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck.” Life was not so rosy being a worker in America. Sure it is nice now after the workers got a lot more rights, but this was written while Capitalism was in it’s prime. Being a worker was not that nice, the life of a worker was not far from what we would regard as hell. While Whitman being the posetive American would write something like this, the british writer Charles Dickens shows the negativity of the time. While the age of enlightenment was supposed to bring great prosperity and joy to the workers (read: The American Dream) working conditions did not really improve that much. If you were born poor in Britain you died poor, the same held true for America, except here you had a small chance at becoming rich. Even though a chance is better then no chance the overly posetive poem clearly showcases the ambivolence of the time. People did not just want to think they were in a time where everyone was important, they wanted to believe it. Personally i hate Nationalism. If you look at earlier societies like Germany and Italy you can see what it leads to. Fascism follows Nationalism and Fascism can be regarded as distilled Nationalism in my opinion.
    A nationalistic attitude is nothing to be proud of, it only leads to racism. As a last note i would like to mention that even if the American Dream offered a second chance to a lot of people, we don’t even have to dig deeper then the slaves to understand that not everyone had such a great life.

  3. sarah says:

    No one mentioned Hughes’ poem is an allusion to Whitman’s. Does anyone study allusion anymore?

  4. nicole says:

    the poem was great

  5. nicole says:

    this poem was really cool it is one of the best poems i have read the poet is really cool and the dude who wrot emooooooo is emoooooooooooooo

  6. Danielle says:

    that was a pretty good poem, i didnt like the rhyme scheme to it but i did like the meaning that the whole world is singing and needs to be joyous for what we do have, for some have nothing.

  7. ashley griffin says:

    luv it

  8. Desiree says:

    This poem is clearly about achieving the American dream. Everyone is working from nothing to become something. They are singing in unison. They are all happy about playing their part to build up america. In Langston’s hughes I, Too he includes himself and represents for the black community as well. I believe that whitman wasn’t trying to make racism an issue. He was just commenting on the American dream.

  9. liz says:

    this poem by whitman is such an awesome poem i did a biography on this amazing man and thereis so much more to him he is such an astonishing writer and person

  10. Ben Donello says:

    i think that this is a great poem.
    the end
    EMOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  11. c says:

    “he founded a “free soil” newspaper, the “Brooklyn Freeman”. / “returns to Brooklyn and edits The Brooklyn Freeman.” / “He resigned from his position in 1848 because his stand against slavery was too strong for the paper’s owners.”

    That would imply that he’s against slavery. Please, do some research before you form an opinion on a topic you don’t know anything about.

    To me, this poem is Whitman’s idea of what America should be: everyone is content with the life they have. No matter what class the people are of, they do not wish to have more, nor do they flaunt off what they have. The “singing” is just a way to say that the people’s spirits are high. “Singing with open mouths” means they are proud to say that they are content with their lives whether they be carpenters or woodcutters.

  12. Scott says:

    First of all I must say VERY WELL SAID GARRETT!!! (Comment No. 42) because I have noticed there are a few illiterate commenters on here, who obviously have no love for the art of poetry and must read poetry only in order to pass a course. So in closing, if you do not understand the concept of poetry and have no skills of analysing properly, please keep your negativity to yourself and read content that is at your level.

  13. Danielle Ferreira says:

    I LOVE THIS POEM!its one of the best poems Mr.Whitman has wrote i remember reading this in the 6th grade not understanding one word but then when i came to high school i began to understand it and of course love it!

  14. Aradia says:

    IF you match up the lines it comes close to an Alabama song, “40 Hour Week”. They both deal with the middle-class working man, the machines, and mechanics. It’s intresting to compare the two.

  15. marco says:

    I discovered Whitman 4 years ago and now i cant stay one day without read his poetry. i would like to corrispond with other people that have my same interest.

  16. Jordan Slone says:

    This poem is very boring.

  17. Spinna says:

    This poem was used by William Striker during his newfond speech on politics because of how insperational it is. It should be required by law to be taught throughout our school sytems because of its imagery and use of poetic devices such as metaphors and similes. His poetic skills surpass that of even the best poets of the now and even the past. He should be regarded by all as the father of national and stirring poems. All hail Whitman!

  18. Patrick says:

    Interesting side-note to this poem, try reading and comparing it to Langston Hughes’ “I, Too”

  19. Andrea says:

    Comment number 43 is a dumb thing to say. If you don’t understand poetry do NOT comment on it. Just because he was a homosexual does NOT mean his poems revolve around that. This poem has its flaws but does not say anything about that.

  20. ahmed says:

    i did a reasurch paper on it and i felt it is such pragmatic to neglect the artists and others in the empowerment of the nation

  21. Thomas Woos says:

    Yes, after much review, the poem does glorify blue collared workers of America (Lines 2-6) and suggest both America as a diverse (I hear America singing, the “varied carols” I hear;) and yet strong (Singing…their strong melodious songs) nation.

    It is not disputed that Whitman had sexual attraction towards men, however only 3rd hand accounts say he was actually in a homosexual relationship. Yes there are more than obvious “suggestions” of such attractions (Line 7), but an attraction does not mean a relationship.

    Argueing to remove great work such as this from school curriculum because of some suttle suggestions of a homosexual preference and a few 100 year old rumours is down right wrong. It is similar to saying we should remove “Romeo & Juliet” from all school books because it contains violence, suggestions of sex, and murder.

  22. CCCCCCCCCCCC says:

    Sahara from U.S u do not know what u r talking about this is one of the greatest poets in American History. It doesn’t say anything about a love affair in the whole poem now does it? NOPE

  23. TROY says:

    I REALLY REALLY LIKE THE POEM

  24. Shimon Weinroth says:

    America singing on the eve of the industrial revolution
    her workmen of all trades, he incldes the women and mothers the storng melodious song full of hope and enthusiam on the eve or reconstruction and indusrialization industrialization. One must explain his poetry in context with the times and not condemn
    him in term of today. Yet it is worhty to note the irony of the times in the following poem.inspired by
    Whiman’s I hear America Singing

    Songs of the New world

    I hear technology singing
    I hear the hum of computers
    from the sockets in the wall
    and transmitters down the hall

    I feel the waves of energy
    tremors of mighty power
    fill the rooms and towers
    with the click and beat pulsing all about

  25. joodie says:

    My love you are like a roll of cookie dough to me
    You make me want to kiss you with my wet soggy lips
    Come to me my little cough drop
    I think you are like a hairy baboon
    I love you

  26. joodie says:

    My Poem:
    A bitter autumn wind comes upon the earth with a great swoosh
    The trees shiver in the cold bitter winds
    Oh save my soul bitter winds

  27. Amber says:

    Im doing a project thing about this poem and I find it quite intresting to see all the imagry and how he expresses himself in the poem “I Hear America Singing”. I think he is a great poet and I love his plays!!

  28. Vinh le says:

    I’m not native America so it’s so hard for me to understand the meaning of each line in the potry “I hear America singing” so I hope some one can help me figure out them…
    e-mail me :khanhvinh@gmail.com

  29. Scarlet says:

    I am with Garrett from the U.S. Perhaps some of the people reading the poem and commenting should read Whitman’s biography and some of his other works. How can he be “too patriotic”? The time in his life that he wrote much of his poetry was during The Civil War period and it was a time that greatly affected Whitman. He was a nurse for wounded soldiers and he wrote poetry about this and about the assassination of Lincoln. Later, he also wrote poems that praised the everyday world around him – like his list poem “I Hear America Singing”. Read “Miracles”, another list poem. It shows how Whitman felt about his fellow man and the goodness and beauty of the world around him.

  30. Sarah Farhda says:

    This poem is disgusting and ought to be banned from all school reading lists. It is nothing but an enigmatic reference to his sexual love affair with a boy and his mother. In line 8 he comments on the little ploughboy’s “wood-cutting song.” Then he continues on to reveal how the boy was available at “morning, noon, intermission, or sundown.” He continues with a reveling in the mother’s “delicious singing” while she “works.” Finally whitman concludes with a reference to an orgy with “robust” boys.(“Party of young fellows.

  31. Garrett says:

    I find it quite amusing that a large majority of the individuals leaving such negative comments about one of the greatest American writers ever to have lived are widely illiterate and look no deeper into the poem than what they see on the surface. Many of you criticize how Whitman does not speak of latinos, asians, or blacks. You just assume that he is speaking of white people and only white people. In what part of his poem does he mention race? It seems that you have personal issues and stereotypes of white people as racist. If you had any knowledge of Walt Whitman, you would know that he was in such grievance over the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that he wrote two poems about his mourning. One of these is “O Captain! My Captain!” Of course you would probably look at this poem and think to yourself, “He is just talking about some white captain on a ship who dies.” So why would you even think for one second that Whitman advocated racism or slavery when he was in support of abolition? Please type your comments in Microsoft Word next time so that spell-check is in effect and you may correct your errors so that you may not appear even more ignorant than you already are. In addition, Walt Whitman lived in the 1800’s, so one cannot merely pass off this poem as unrealistic. Perhaps this is so by today’s standards, but at the time the poem was written it was very realistic. Agriculture dominated the economy and industry was emerging as a player in the market as well. Consequently, the people described in his poem all perform physical labor. So, one should not question Whitman’s lack of reference to people with other occupations. Whitman is also describing the American workforce and population as a whole. If he were to be so very specific as to list every occupation that existed, I do not believe that anyone would sit through an entire reading of his work. So once again I ask of you, go to school, the library, the internet, anywhere, and educate yourself on the subject matter so that you will have facts to support your argument. Thank you.

  32. leo says:

    This poem was written in a time where America was going through many many changes industrially, socially…I think the author just speak out his good wish about amercan common people.

  33. Jamie says:

    Walt Whitman, in this poem, may actually be trying to be sarcastic. At the time the poem was written workers were being mistreated and the conditions they worked under were terrifying. Maybe the workers singing is their hope and the only time they can sing “with open mouths” is at night when they are amongst other workers and can express themselves freely. Being heavily connected with the democratic party, a huge concern for Whitman was human rights as well as unity.

  34. John says:

    I get confused on the different kind of literary devies these kind of poems have…could anybody explain them to me please?

  35. Kiki says:

    I think that Walt Whitman was unrealistic in this poem as America was not “free” for everyone during the time that this poem was written. Minorities and women’s rights were not heard during this time thus their “singing” was silenced. Read Langston Hughes, “I, too, sing America” to fully understand the feelings of the oppressed and discriminated.

  36. Edgar Andrade says:

    I Hear America Singing is a great poem and I think it says alot of inspiring things. I like this poem because it talks about americas workforce. I can relate to this poem aswell.

  37. Kira Nerrice says:

    I’m currently studying Walt Whitman and I am right now learning about this poem (I’m a sixth grader). This is one of the few poems I like and understand. Why do teachers make kids study poems?!?

  38. Jill says:

    Well- The SINGING that is refered to here is a figurative song. They people are not actually SINGING while they work. The song is the routine of their work that is basically the work that is holding America up–keeping the country moving. This poem was written in a time where our country was going through many many changes industrially, socially, we were gearing up for the civil war, and slavery was on the cusp of being abolished. This poem is about the people in America, those who make the country what it is. Whitman wrote for the common man. He glorified blue collar work as the support that holds the country together. The common man- as he called it- was essentially America. Whitman did not even publish his work using his name. He wanted his stuff to be read by everyone of all social classes and ethnicities.

  39. Katie says:

    To me this poem is less about a carefree society that is all joy and singing. I think Whitman realized the problems in America also. This poem is more about people finding satidfaction in their lives because it is THEIR LIFE. No one elses. They are independent and that makes them free. To be able to say that you worked for something, and it is yours, is a great thing. Even if it is a low, honest working wage, or just the ability to be comfortable with yourself.

  40. natalie millon says:

    Walt Whitman is a very patriotic poet. In his poem, he repeatedly used “singing” as a symbolization of freedom and happiness in America. He also described a very utopian society, a perfect place to dwell in.

  41. Jeff says:

    I feel this means that everybody needs to do their jobs for the community. Relating this to a Melody, the melody doesnt work without the harmony and like that if only one person “sings their song” or does their work then the song isnt complete and the community that relys on each other will fall apart.

  42. Karen Whitley says:

    To me the poem means that everyone is different and in America that is ok. Everyone is allowed to sing their song out loud, not silenced by diversity, “singing with open mouth.” It is not necessarily singing, or workers…the workers represent the ordinary citizen and the songs are our voices and opinions. Even the small guys have the freedom of speech

  43. dwq says:

    IT WAS FUNNY

  44. Victor Betts Jfr says:

    I feel that in this poem they feel exciting as they work,when on the other hand some people dont like to work an sing “excitement”

  45. Marlene Gomez says:

    In “I Hear America Singing” you can hear that it shows that the people in america love to sing to their country and to their nobel jobs even with low wages and hard times the people af america will always enjoy living in their country and enjoy singing to their beautiful America.

  46. Raquel Alvarado says:

    I think that the poem”I hear America Singing” is a great poem because it shows that people back then were happy to get any job, but today people are non-conformists at what they do for a living.

  47. dominique thomas says:

    He is saying that he hear the sweet sounds of the american people while they enjoy their day at work.

  48. Larry says:

    From the persons day it sounds like everyone was happy about their jobs, they are in the garden of eve and tha makes me like it.

  49. johnny lepe says:

    The poem “I hear America singing” was too patriotic it had too many words that only true americans could read, but its showing that these people are happy as long as they are in the country and not caring about how they treat them.

  50. michael says:

    The poem was alright but i did not like the poem because it was not real nobody sing when they work at these kind of jobs. bye

  51. jose guillen says:

    she was trying to say the different ways american express themselves.

  52. Tanesha Richardson says:

    what i thought about the poem “I Hear America Singing” was that it was enjoyable. I think he was trying to say that having a good job to go to everyday is enjoying. I also think that he’s trying to say that jobs are not always bad there sometimes wonderful. I also think he’s trying to say sing about what you have instead of showing it off to everyone.

  53. BLANCA says:

    IN “I HEAR AMERICA SINGING” I THINK THAT THIS POEM DOESN’T MAKE SENSE BECAUSE IT’S WRITTEN LIKE IN THE OLD FASHINED WAY WITH WEIRD WORDS.THE POET DIDN’T REALLY MAKE A POINT.

  54. MARIELA MARTINEZ says:

    I BELIEVE THAT ” I HEAR AMERICA SINGING’ IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT WORK VERY HARD DOING THEIR JOB EVERY DAY, AND ARE HAPPY TO BE WORKING FOR GREAT COUNTRY LIKE AMERICA.

  55. Yery Aguilar says:

    I think that the poem “I hear America Singing” is a very good poem because it says that you shouldn’t hate what you do for a living.If you have to do it anyways might as well enjoy it.

  56. Desiree Garcia says:

    In the poem “I Hear America Singing Whitman makes me think that everybody here started slow and in the end they were the richest man, they loved working because they were americans, but if hw were alive today he would say that everything has changed. Now everybody doesn’t care,they not patriac because now it’s all about white people and they forgey evrybody else

  57. Marcellus Cox says:

    To me it talks about people singing about the country they love, what makes people happy about living in the u.s.a.
    Makes people want to sing about there prombles. Also makes everbody want to sing there troubles away.

  58. matt says:

    Hi, I am working on an assignment for english that is to compare the two poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. I am not just to state the obvious; Dickenson is confined and Whitman was out experiencing nature. I am supposed to find deeper meaning into the poetry and contrast and compare. If anyone has ideas to help me please, please e-mail me. musicguy88@hotmail.com

  59. Alex says:

    Whitman man a good and also boring man. This poem is really boring and also has a very good facts about the poeple. Look at America now! How is it! the poem has nothing antmore for someone to read cause it’s pointless!

  60. Rainbow says:

    When I read this poem, I find Whitman only thought of the people who did physical labour. Did they represent all Americans?

  61. darryl says:

    This poem is okay to me.I think it just means that everybody is important in America. Woopie!

  62. Leyla Rodriguez says:

    I liked this poem because it talks about all the hard woking people all over America. He says that if everybody had a song they would all be different. I also like it because he is talking about the importance of the common people.

  63. Maria Peralta says:

    In “I Hear America Singing” Whitman says that everyone has his or her own life style. He kind of says that we are all unique but Americans too.I think this poem is nice but really don’t like it .

  64. Elsi Reyes says:

    “I Hear America Singing” has a meaning for saying that everybody has there own style.”Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else.”Is saying that everybody is different.You don’t have to be someone your not to impress another person, but to just be yourself and not someone your not.

  65. Justin Sanders says:

    In “I Hear America Singing” the poet shows songs that different types of people form one song of America. It also shows that these types of poems are what America is known for. We are all different but we are Americans too.

  66. Jason Anthony says:

    ” I Hear America Singing”
    I think that it represents how he felt about America back then and how it was as happy as can be. These days though I don’t think the poem would quite fit with the way America is. I say that because the people of America are not always happy with what they do and most jobs don’t pay enough. Also our economy is all screwed up.

  67. Jonathan says:

    In the poem it says that each person is singing their own song. I think this poem represents that everyone is different in their own way and were not the same. It also probably represents that they were happy to be an American.

  68. Alexandria Williams says:

    Whitman shows that everyone lives by their own song and even though we are all individuals in our own right , we are brought together by our american song. He displays his views of patriotism and his idea of being an American.

  69. Samuel Salgado says:

    I find the poem ” I Hear America Singing” to be too patriotic. Yes the Americans were happy despite the low wages and hard labor, but they were not the only hard laborers. What about the Hispanics, Latinos, and even Asians? They work as hard,or, even harder than the Americans. ” I Hear America Singing” is too patriotic and nationalistic.

  70. kandyse says:

    The poem had a good meaning to it that connected to everyday life. I agree with most of the things stated in the poem. I think one of the most important statements in the poem was “Trust no Future, how’er pleasant! Let the dead past bury it’s dead! Act-act in the leaving Present! Heart within and God o’er head!” If you live trying to fix your past, your future will never be right.

  71. Debbie Valenta says:

    I wonder if Whitman were alive today, what songs would he hear from America? I’m afraid they may not be as happy.

  72. Jomel says:

    he shows they were happy to do their jobs despite the low wages and hard labor, they were just happy to be in America

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