O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more
faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever
renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

17 Comments

  1. Igor Marinovsky says:

    Life is always special thing.

  2. Sophie says:

    I believe this poem alludes to Shakespeare’s quote, “All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages.” because of the line, “That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.” I believe that what that line means is that people will come and go in your life and so will you. You will just be contributing a verse, some of your life, to the powerful play, which is the entire world, life Shakespeare has already stated.

  3. Juanita says:

    I agree with Dori, too. That’ll move the chains!

  4. Hannah says:

    I like this Poem!
    Thank you for your analysation.
    I need this for my English lesson 😉

  5. Caterina says:

    THis poem was really moving. I have no idea why, but it just was

  6. Rose says:

    This poem expresses a lament of a type that perhaps most introspective people experience from time to time, about the pointlessness and relentlessness of the human experience. In the “answer”, Whitman explains, in a Zen sort of way, that it is possible to come to terms with it. It is a statement of acceptance for what is. The use of the word “powerful” in the last line, for me, sums up the realization that whatever is overwhelming about life, including the tawdry, inadequate, or downright futile strivings of man, can – in and of itself – be worthy of our participation. We inevitably “contribute a verse”, but no matter how much we crave to know the meaning of it all, it is just beyond us. Whitman seems to be saying that it’s okay to participate in our own individual way without demanding to know what good it is. The good is simply that it exists and we are all a part of it.

  7. lEo says:

    this poem starts off in a more pessimistic tone. O me! O life! “of the endless trains of the faithless”… “of the struggle ever renewed”… “what good amid these? O me! o life!”

    the answer is in comparison much more uplifting, as if whitman wanted to make a contrast. it’s almost like another speaker that comes to answer the first speaker’s pessimistic outlook on life. the second speaker shows him that life is a powerful play, and that we may all contribute a verse

  8. SeoJin says:

    I first met this poem in a movie ‘dead poets society’, and I could not froget this poem until the end of the movie. I also agree with Dori. Thesedays, I felt depressed because I thought I was nothing. But now I can say my great play is going on, and I got a terrafic roll. I am here. O me, O life.

  9. smunky says:

    oh me oh life! to be alive! life itself if the greatest gift, we have a chance, we have an opportunity! so free yourself and search for something more, something beautiful and high and wonderful, something that will make your life worth living. life is a gift, do not squandor it, but use it wisely, searching after truth. if you want to know what i consider to be the highest truth, please do email me…

  10. Sarah says:

    Answer.
    That you are here that life exists and identity,
    That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse…
    what will your verse be?

  11. flor says:

    I think that in this poem he tried to say that we should express our individualism instead of following the mass.

  12. Matt says:

    I agree with Dori and I would like to add that to contribute a verse to the powerful play does not have to be a lengthy nor complicated verse, just so long as it isn’t repetitive of past verses.

  13. Dori says:

    What I get out of this is that he is not talking about a good life or a bad life, just LIFE. That we all have a part to play in this big play called LIFE. And even when we think that in looking at the big of things, that we make no difference, we are wrong in thinking that. Because just to be here and have LIFE is the biggest part of all. You are you, and that is what is important

  14. Ding yao Bi says:

    In my view, the poem descibes both positive and negative respects of human being’s life. Both of them exist and the question is that which one we prefer to believe in. Some time I think the answer or reply of “who am I” is not “I am who” but “who am I want to be”. haha!!! I can contribute a verse of both the great powerful paly and my own poem.

  15. Adriana says:

    The poem brings a very interesting thought. Life will always bring undesired experiences, it is up to us if we will let it win and defeat us. We cannot just go around being misserable and thinking about how life gave us a kick on the ass, we have to try to make it better; because at the end the answer is that it is on our hands, we have the power to change our life for better or for worst.

  16. Meg says:

    The poem an a very abrupt and dramatic change. I think the diffence between the beginning and the ending of the poem it two ways that a person can look at life. You can look at life and ask pessimistic questions or you can look at life knowing that you are hear and you can do whatever you want with it. You can make up “your own verse.”

  17. Laura says:

    Perhaps the author’s dissatisfaction with his life at that time.
    But the poem ends with an optimistic note. Like his questions are being answered by God, or a god, or a wiser person.

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