Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry


Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry

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Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman's Poetry

Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry

Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry

Walt Whitman was a great poet of America. He wrote poetry on a variety of themes among which the theme of sex and love is an outstanding one that catches the passionate attention of his readers. His sense and philosophy of sex and love are natural, wild, violent, wayward, spontaneous, frank, amorous, naked, blind and mystical. In other words, to say, his sense of love and sex, as he displays in his poetry, is inhumane, immoral, illegal, unsocial, irreligious and illogical in a civilized society. Let us examine the theme of sex and love in Whitman’s poetry.

In the poem entitled ‘Native Moments’ he desires ‘libidinous joy’ and wants to go consort with nature’s darlings—because he believes in ‘loose delight’ in nature and desires to share ‘the midnight orgies of young men’ as a homosexual. He says:-

”Give me now libidinous joy only


I am for those who believe in loose delights, 

I share the midnight orgies of young men


He shall be lawless, rude illiterate,

He shall be one condemned by others for deeds done.”

In the poem ‘Once I passed Through a Populous City’ he says that he loves her who is amorous, ‘passionately clung’ to him. He wanders with that passionate lady, plays an amorous love game and then separates each other. In his own words:

”Once I passed through a populous city


Yet now for all that city I remember 

Only a woman I casually met there 

Who detained me for love of me.


I remember I say only that woman 

Who passionately clung to me,

Again we wander, we love, we separate again.

And again she holds me by the hand,

I must not go,

I see her close beside me with silent 

Lips sad and tremulous.”

In the ‘Song of Myself’ (No-32) he desires to live wildlife with animals—because he thinks that animals are placid and self-contained. In his words:

”I think I could turn and live with animals, 

they are so placid and self contained.”

The poem entitled ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ is another poem that reflects almost all his sense of sex and love. In the poem, he says that a woman, who is amorous, gives the poet everything. He says:

”A woman waits for me, she contains all, 

Nothing is lacking,

Yet all were lacking, if sex were lacking.”

In the same poem he emphasizes the sense of sex so much that he deliberately reveals:

”Sex contains all, bodies, souls


All hopes ….. loves, beauties, delights of the earth.”

In the same poem, he says that he loves a sexually active woman. He desires the company of those women who are warm-blooded. In his own words:

”Now I will dismiss myself from impressive women,

I will go stay with her, who waits for me, 

And with those women that are warm-

blooded and sufficient for me.”

In the matter of love, he is always amorous and in the description of sexual relationships with women, he is naked, frank and indecent. In the same poem he says:

”I draw you close to me, you women,

I cannot let you go, I would do you good,

I am for you, and you are for me, not only 

for our own sake, but for others sake.”

In the same poem, he says that sexual love is necessary to keep human civilization living on earth. He openly says:

”I am stern, acrid, large, understandable, but I love you

I don’t hurt you anymore than is necessary for you.

I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for this states, 

I press with slow rude muscles.”

Certainly, the above quoted lines are highly amorous that reveal how sexual intercourse is done with a woman.

In the poem entitled ‘The Sleepers,’ the poet speaks that he likes darkness because in dark he is safe and sound to have sexual acts with his beloved. He says:

”My truant lover has come and it is dark.

Double yourself and receive me darkness.

Receive me and my lover too, he will 

not let me go without him.”

In the same poem, the poet says how the married couple sleeps in their bed. The description is highly passionate and frank:

”The married couples sleep calmly in 

their bed, he with his palm on the 

hip of the wife and she with her palm 

on the hip of the husband.”

In the poem ‘Song of Myself’ he expresses that the power of sexual love has been bestowed upon him by Earth (Nature) and Earth has loved the poet very generously. In his own words:

”Smile for your lover comes

Prodigal you have given me love—

Therefore I to give you love!

O unspeakable passionate love.”

The poet loves a man as well as a woman, but the poet advocates that woman is greater because she has sex organs for which she can give birth to children. In the words of the poet himself:

”I am the poet of the woman as the same as the man.

And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,

And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.”

The poet’s sexual love is confined not to women only, but also to men. He thinks that the human body—either woman or man—is sacred. In the poem ”I sing the Body Electric” he says:

”Have you ever loved the body of women?

Have you ever loved the body of a man?

If anything is sacred the human body is sacred.”

Again in another poem, the poet expresses the same philosophy that in the matter of sexual love there is no shame to love either a man or a woman. He says:

”Without shame the man I like knows and 

avows the deliciousness of his sex

without shame the woman 

I like knows and avows hers.” (A woman waits for me)

The poet is so free and frank in matters of love and sex that he can create spontaneous phrases and images to describe the sexual thoughts and feelings which arouse amour. He writes in the poem, ‘Spontaneous Me’:

”Love thoughts, love juice, love odor, 

love-yielding, love climbers and climbing sap,

Arms and hands of love, lips of love, 

phallic thump of love, breasts of love.”

In the ‘Songs of Myself, Section-11’ he describes the desire of a lovesome lady for the twenty-eight young men who are bathing naked in the sea one morning. The poet reveals that perhaps the lady likes that man who is the ‘homeliest’:

”Which of the young men does she like the best?

Ah, the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.”

Sometimes the poet’s sense of love becomes mystical. He says that he has received a mystical experience with the Oversoul at night in his bed.

”I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing

As hugging and loving, Bed follow sleeps 

at my side through the night and 

withdraws at the peep of the day,

With stealthy tread………….”

From the above illustration, it has come to our clarification that Walt Whitman’s philosophy of love and sex is natural, wild, violent, wayward, spontaneous, amorous, naked, blind, and mystic. In other words, his sense of love and sex in a civilized human society is inhumane, immoral, illegal, unsocial, irreligious, and illogical.

But here to refute that, while he had to delineate his sense of love and sex in his poetry, he forgot to be a member of a civilized human society and thought himself to be a wild being in Nature. He depicts his instinctive desire for love and sex without feeling any social responsibility. To live a peaceful, ordered and civilized life in society everybody must keep his instinctive desires under control and enjoy them through logical restriction. Otherwise, a peaceful social life would be impossible. Walt Whitman in his personal life, in matters of love and sex, was loose, amorous, violent, and wayward as he has portrayed in his poetry and for this, he had suffered much in life at the hand of society and often he was accused of being a father of about half a dozen illegitimate children and once he was driven away from his government job and his long poem, ‘The Song of Myself’ was proscribed by the church officials.  0 0 0. Sex and Love in Walt Whitman

Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry

Sex and Love in Walt Whitman

N.B. The article ‘Theme of Sex and Love in Walt Whitman’s Poetry’ originally belongs to the book ‘Walt Whitman’s Poetry A Thematic Study‘ by Menonim Mennimus. Sex and Love in Walt Whitman. Sex and Love in Walt Whitman

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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