Walt Whitman: Poems

Walt Whitman: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Thou Reader"


In this short poem, Whitman addresses readers of Leaves of Grass. In the first line, he states, "Thou reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I," which means that his readers live life, feel pride, and experience love the same way the poet does. Because of this, Whitman has decided to dedicate the following poems (in the Leaves of Grass collection) to his readers.


Just like "To You," "Thou Reader" is a short poem that Whitman added to Leaves of Grass later in his life. "Thou Reader" is the final poem in the Inscriptions section of the collection, which is fitting, as the second line "Therefore for thee the following chants" sets it up as an introduction to the sections to come. Whitman probably added this poem because he felt compelled to acknowledge his readers within the series of inscriptions.

Though short, this poem conveys important information about the way Whitman sees himself and his work. Whitman wants to identify with his reader, which sets him apart from writers and artists consider themselves to be intellectually superior to their readers. Whitman never expresses this kind of condescension. Instead, he acknowledges that he, like his readers, is human. The poet and his audience all possess human feelings, desires, and behavior. To Whitman, humanity is the greatest form of connection between people; the unique qualities of human nature form inextricable bonds between individuals.

Because of these commonalities and the shared mutual respect, Whitman proclaims that the rest of the poems in Leaves of Grass should be "for" the reader. This reveals the fact that Whitman did not write poetry just for the sake of writing - he wanted an audience to read, process, and think about his poems, which he crafted to address universal themes. He calls his poems "chants," fitting with the rest of Inscriptions, in which he frequently likens poetry to singing and songs. The first poem in Inscriptions describes what Whitman would "sing" about."Thou Reader," the final poem in Inscriptions, details whom he is singing for.