Walt Whitman: Poems

An Explication of Walt Whitman's "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun"

In his January 6, 1865 letter to fellow writer and self-confessed radical William O'Connor, Walt Whitman states in no uncertain terms that his poetry collection Drum Taps "delivers my ambition. . . to express. . . the pending action of this time and land we swim in, with all (its) despair. . . the unprecedented anguish of {the} suffering, the beautiful young men, in wholesale death and agony." But in contrast to this view, Whitman also declares Drum Taps to be a collection which reverberates with "the blast of the trumpet and the undertones of. . . comradeship and human love, (with) the clear notes of faith and triumph" (Bradley 765).

In his poem "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun," first published in Drum Taps in May of 1865, Whitman describes his emotional attachment to the Civil War through his own experiences in New York City where the war efforts of the North were being examined and discussed by virtually every citizen. In his landmark work American Renaissance, F.O. Matthiessen notes that Whitman's "deepened perception of the meaning of suffering" brought on by his "resolution to become a volunteer nurse during the Civil War" resulted in the creation of Drum Taps...

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