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Inspirational Quotes from the Poetry of Walt Whitman

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012

These inspirational quotes from Walt Whitman might be the words you need to encourage you on to higher goals. At the very least they'll impress your friends and might make your teachers think you did your homework assignment.

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    Use these Walt Whitman quotes to impress the ladies (or men) in your life.

    Quote: "A great city is that which has the greatest men and women, / If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole world" (Song of the Broad Axe).

    Analysis: Whitman's poetry celebrates the individual. A city is only as good as those who inhabit it, regardless of size.

    Quote: "On a flat road runs the well-train'd runner, / He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs, / He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs, / With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais'd."

    Analysis: The cynic in me wonders why, if this runner is so darn good, is he running on flat roads. The runner in me wishes to leap to my feet and run a few miles. The English teacher in me wants to analyze "The Runner" and comment on how the runner in the poem is a metaphor. The man in me wants to leave the keyboard area and make out with my wife, who is also a runner, and looks doggone good.

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    From "Song of Myself"

    Whitman 

    Quote: "I celebrate myself, and sing myself / And what I assume you shall assume / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you" (1-3)

    Analysis: The ultimate celebration of the individual, according to Whitman, is the celebration of self, not in an arrogant manner because everything he assumes, or achieves, you shall also, and every bit of enjoyment he gains from life is available to you. The following activities will help you apply Walt Whitman's inspirational quote: (1) Choose one day each month to celebrate yourself and each member of your family or group of friends: celebrate your positive qualities and accomplishments; (2) Make a list of all your positive qualities and focus on them; (3) Set goals for self improvement and truly grasp the goodness you deserve; (4) Eliminate all negative speech.

    Quote: "I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you, / And you must not be abased with the other" (Stanza 5, 1-3).

    Analysis: Whitman believed the glorification of the soul was entwined with the glorification of the body. The two must act in accordance with their eternal nature. "The other I am" is a a Biblical allusion. Jesus refers to himself as the great "I am." Whitman's use of "I am" in this context eludes to the eternal nature of the individual.

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    George Custer 

    Quote: "Vivas to those who have fail'd! / And to those whose vessels sank in the sea! / And to those themselves who sank in the sea! / And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes! / And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!"

    Analysis: Whitman champions democratic principles. One of the distinguishing features of democratic rule, as opposed to European style socialism, is the right to fail. Whitman celebrates those who try and fail, the risk takers, those who don't rely on government bailouts and the "nanny" state of cradle to grave entitlements.

    Quote: "That I could forget the mockers and insults! / That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers!" (Stanza 38, 5-6).

    Analysis: Even Whitman, one who was very secure with himself, recognized the foolish exercise of fearing what others think. He would have probably applauded Jack Canfield's response to criticism: "No matter what you say or do to me I'm still a worthwhile person." Try that cheesy thought the next time you're insulted. You'll feel much better.

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    Words of Wisdom

    Quote: "Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young, / The young are beautiful--but the old are more beautiful than the young."

    Analysis: The cynic in me thinks that perhaps Walt was busting a move on an older woman. The part of me that loves beautiful women isn't sure what to think. The English teacher in me wants to read this poem to his class and watch the sneers and hear the protestations. The man in me doesn't dare read this poem to his wife because she'll think I'm either calling her old or calling her less beautiful than someone else. Let's move on.

    Quote: "O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done, / The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won"

    Analysis: And so begins Whitman's tribute to Abraham Lincoln. The captain is Lincoln. The fearful trip is the Civil War. The prize is the preservation of the Union. For a complete analysis of "O Captain! My Captain" follow the link.

    Quote: "THIS dust was once the Man, / Gentle, plain, just and resolute—under whose cautious hand, / Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age, / Was saved the Union of These States."

    Analysis: You probably already realize that Whitman really admired Lincoln. He shared Lincoln's view that the preservation of the Union meant the preservation of the republic.

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    Declaration of Independence Quote: "There was a child went forth every day, / And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became."

    Analysis: Whitman comments on the external forces that shape the individual.

    Quote: I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, / In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the / glass, / I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name, / And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go, / Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

    Analysis: Whitman recognized the eternal nature of the soul. He believed that to love God was to love people.

    Quote: "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear."

    Analysis: What better way to celebrate individuals by celebrating the nation where individual liberties are championed in its founding document. What better way to celebrate the human body by linking it to songs celebrating the physical manifestation of the Creator.

The Poetry of Walt Whitman

Don't end up on the deck cold and dead after your next poetry test. Read this study guide on Walt Whitman's poetry instead.
  1. Analysis of "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman
  2. Analysis of "I Hear America Singing" and "Beat! Beat! Drums!" by Walt Whitman
  3. Inspirational Quotes from the Poetry of Walt Whitman

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