I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after
deeds
done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt,
desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these
sights on
the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be
kill’d, to
preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor,
and
upon
negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

30 Comments

  1. SHANIQUA says:

    dIiizEzzz P03m Issz ddAa beSStezz…itTt mazkes z0 mch SSennsA ta MeeeE. lIIfe is AA giffT and sooO~ manyY babi giRlsz is gEttN misUsEDD by/Y DeeYE manNNn; wEhn I wErrE FourTEEn i g0t mzUUSedd by a dudDE and had MIIi fRst twIns…L0V3 D3m Th0!n0w I iZ 17, a M00thA of 5, and TruLeyy BlessEDD andD snGLe ~~~

  2. talitha says:

    the poem tells us of what is happening in and around the world.tells us of its beauty and same time reminds us of how the world today is changing.!!

  3. Anjani says:

    i am surprised to read this poem. as the poet in this poem is rasing the problems that are existing even today. even today we all are the silent bearer as then he was.we all are just waiting for some miracle to happen to change all these problems, that’s why in the last two lines of the poem,”ALL THE MEANENSS & AGONY WITOUT END, I SITTING, LOOK UPON, SEE, HEAR & I AM SILENT” actually WALT WHITMAN is reflecting our situation.

  4. PETER says:

    Too many sufferings in the world,sometimes we can’t do anything about them,so cherish our present life!

  5. anjela says:

    this great poem touches our heart and reflects our society.it beautifully tells us the evils and wrong deeds happening in society.i am a high school student and this poem is in our syllabus that is how i came across this wonderfull poem.

  6. Justin Fountain says:

    I feel this poem shows the views of the kids in poverty all over the world. They cant help the fact that they live that way.

  7. A High School student says:

    The poem is really true about life…i got the point that Whitman is trying to say and i totally agree with it…we do nothing but just sit and look out! The world has still the same problems during that period of time and which is something that can never be changed just because some people are there to make the worst because they can’t see the BEST! This is the truth of life…something hard to believe for those who want to make the world a beeter place to live!

  8. Andrew says:

    That was pretty deep. Its understood that this guy can see clearly how the world was at his time and still is today.

  9. Tony says:

    I went to high school in the southern part of the U.S.A. in the 60’s. A big billboard with a hooded KKK person on a horse had printed on it welcome to the heart of KKK Land. It was to welcomed (some) people to our community. This poem gave me truth and hope then. I recited this poem with great emotion to a large auditorium filled with white teanagers and teachers. I loved Walt Whitman then and now. I as a teenager sat and looked out at so much then but felt trapped in this community. I no longer live there. Now as an adult I have worked with individuals who have disabilities and children and adults who have been abused and neglect. Veterans who were injured physically and emotionaly. I oppose the Iraq war and voice my opion. My father was in Vietnam when I lived in the south, and now my son justed served and was injured in Irag.
    What an epiphany the reading has been for me after 40 years. This poem is timeless! It inspires people to make a difference and not just sit and look out.

  10. Ranzobert Fick Dich! says:

    I think that this poem reflects exactly what is going on in our pretty planet and it will always be like that. Since humankind can remember life always wasn’t fair. So don’t try to change something that won’t change anyway! try to be in the best position! that’s what i learned from this poem

  11. Paige says:

    This is such a deep poem. For him to be able to write about what is happening during his age and for it to transfer over to ours… wow.

    I wouldn’t have been able to say it better myself in a long elaborated essay. I have also done this poem for my 11th grade AP english project.
    It cleary states how the world is molding its self…

    corruption all around… and if people do see what is happening.. do little or nothing to stop it.

  12. Mel says:

    This poem represents so much more than politics. It is an almost perfect reflection of society, then and now. It shows how so many people suffer from injustices, like discrimination, racism, disabilities and the like and many people choose to say “I’m so lucky thats not me, dont know what I’d do if it was me” but then they choose, as the poem suggests, to sit back and watch it all go by and not lift a hand to prevent or solve these injustices. The last line “I see, hear and am silent.” I believe has two meanings, one the meaning that we see these terrible things happen and do nothing, and two, that some people who see enough of life are physically silenced by the barbarity of the bad things.

  13. alyssa amore says:

    as one of the comments mentioned i also agree that whitman can be speaking as god.

  14. mary 17 years old says:

    i had to do an assignment (year 11) based on poetica i chose to study this poem particularly as it can have so many different meanings as each indervidual interperates the poem!

    however i feel strongly that whitman is tryinng to make the point that this is our world and whilst we may not agree with the way things are running or happening we still choose to sit back and not try to change it
    as i say, “we are the future, we make the world wat we want by who we are”

    and whilst we think that one person cant make a difference it can

    i believe MR whitman is telling us to take charge, not to be afraid to stand up for ourselves and what we belive in. to make change!

    but each to their own

  15. emilee says:

    this was great !

  16. elsa says:

    this poema it think is reflecting emotions which inspired wold players like Nelson Mandela and others to act on human suffering and injustice toward man

  17. moonriver says:

    I read all the comments, and it seems like everyone assumes that Walt Whitman is the person speaking in this poem. Wouldn’t it be much more ironic to interpretate this poem and say the God is the one who is sitting, looks out upon, sees, hears, and is silent? is that sort of interpretation justified?

  18. Simone says:

    I think the last sentence gives the most meaning to me.

    “All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
    See, hear, and am silent.”

    I think this poem is about all the bad things in the world and that people just observe them, they see that its injustice but they do nothing about it. They keep still. Whitman is making a point that, no one stands up to the injustices of the world, to make things right, as he makes no kind of hint that people put some kind of action to prevent these things. Whitman is urging us, not just to see and hear the meanness and the agony of people suffering in the world, but to put right what is unjust. It might not be what you interpreted from the poem but it is what I got.

  19. shanna says:

    i like it

  20. Thong Tran says:

    This poem, by Walt Whitman, was written in the transcendentalist age. I wanted to empahsize this point because he support the ideas of individualism. Therefore, the poem is suppose to give us all our individual opinion of it. I know no history behind this poem or ever thought it symbolizes the history of its time, but the poem seems to empahsize on the corruption and reality of the world. We all know of all the bad things in society, but what can we do to improve it. This is message whitman tried to get across in his “I Sit and Look Out”

    *Btw, i first got interested in poems because of the movie, The Dead Poet Society. It’s a really good movie and entails a lot of famous poems in America.

  21. Bob Barker says:

    I think this poem is boring. The Price is Right

  22. school student says:

    this poem was written because Whitman was so patriotic that he was generally pissed off that president Garfield was assasinated in 1881. In his other poems he talks about how wonderful america and its presidents are!!!! *strange misconceeded man he was*

  23. Amer S. Al-Huwarat says:

    This poem, though had been written more than a centurey ago, reflects the reality lies inside each free and honorable American who understand the reality of Bush personal adventures and wars!
    The best words that convey the silenced sound of the americans are in:
    “All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
    See, hear, and am silent.”
    And so is every civilised American: looking out..see hear..watching all the meanness committed under the name of America & Democracy!
    This poem also honestly reflect the spirit of the real struggling American who have always been giving hand to any nation in the world that seeks freedom and dignity until the cursed Bush family has come to scene.

  24. Jay says:

    in my opinion, i thought this poem was about the powers of the world, but more then that, i thought about war, and the hardship that comes with it, that war is not only guns and knives but words as well. Thats how i saw this poem as.

  25. johns baby girl says:

    this poem does truly state that althought technology in the world has changed over the course of the years..people and just humanity in general have not. i find it so fasinating that many of the problems in the world today already existed in the 1900s. and i dont believe that the world being this way is george bushs fault..but i personally dont like him the least bit..i mean come on..give the little people some credit

  26. Gun-Shy says:

    The poem really talks about the so called superpowers of the worlds.- BUSH ADMINISTRATION.

  27. meesa says:

    i think this poem really adresses todays world issues as well as when it was written. it shows that not much in the world has changed since the 1900’s.

  28. suzie says:

    the problems mentioned in the poem would be the same and just as prominent whether bush or kerry or nader or anybody else had won the election…what is the use of blaming them? it is not the president that causes the problems, it is narrow-minded people.

  29. Laura says:

    This poem was emailed to me today by a friend. He was trying to console friends about the election of George Bush. I sent it on to others. I had not read it for over 30 years. I found great consolation in the words. These are my values not the values of George Bush. Someday the majority of voters in this country will share these values.

  30. Kellai says:

    This poem expresses the way I feel today after President Bush won a second term. I feel that the country has forgotten the little people. The poem truly, truly brings to light a feeling of deep emotions on social conditions.

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