"Song of Myself" is one of Walt Whitman's most famous poems, and one of the most well known American poems of all time. It was published in the volume Leaves of Grass in 1855, untitled. In the second edition, Whitman titled the poem "Poem of Walt Whitman, an American," then changed it in the third to, "Walt Whitman." In the fourth edition the poem was broken into 52 sections, and only in the 1891 edition was the title changed to "Song of Myself."
Mirroring the tranquil Transcendental content of the poem and Whitman's desire to speak to a mass audience, the poem is written in a free verse style that does not keep to any strict rhyme or stanza pattern. As the title indicates, and Quentin notes, the self as one and/or "multitudes" is an important theme in the poem. The narrator of the poem sees connections and feels connection between self, others, and especially nature.
Margo highlights passages all over the long poem - in stanzas 3, 24, 46, and more - and Quentin reads even more. Reproduced below is the text of section 1, to give a taste of what each character would have started with:
"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy."
It is clear why Quentin was confused upon his first few reads, but the themes of self/other and nature already begin to emerge in this first of 52 sections. Take a further look at "Song of Myself," which can be found free online, to discover more connections to the Paper Towns and the struggles of Margo and Quentin.