A Poem for Reality

William Wordsworth, an influential poet wrote “The World is too Much with Us,” which resonates with everyone today. I used the close-reading method of archeological digging to immerse myself into the overall meaning of the poem. Overall, what I had gathered from my close-reading was that Wordsworth was explaining to his readers that people lack the appreciation the things the world offers us. Through the use of imagery and the title, Wordsworth informs the reader of the overwhelming fact that beauty in the world is fading, and we (as humans) are destroying and not paying attention to it.

In line 5 he says, “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon” and he uses personification to show that we have been shown the most intimate thing the world could give us. Bosom could mean either a chest of a woman or something that could be described as intimate. He continues on line 8, by saying “For this, for everything, we are out of tune” and it sheds light on the notion that since we are given the precious items since birth, we don’t allow us to appreciate what we have. Basically, he give a reason and continues on with an explanation.

The title of them poem, “The World is too Much with Us,” further proves the overall theme of this poem that people lack that appreciation the world offers us. He uses the words “too much with us” to show how we are given an overwhelming amount of ideas, beauty, and nature that we don’t focus on that, but rather focus on money and what it could buy for he says in line 2, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”. We ‘get and spend’ materialistic items that could be bought, sold, and recieved, and not the things that are surrounding us everyday – the ocean, the sky, the stars, etc.

Overall, the poem does have a meaningful tone and does resonate with the fast-paced evolving world we live in today. Using the archaeological dig method, I was able to dissect the poem using literary elements and trace back to the overall theme Wordsworth was trying to depict.

Mr. Nobody

No Labor-Saving Machine by Walt Whitman portraits an idea that many people in this world have, the idea of how will we be remember after we are gone. By repeating the word “no ” an “nor” at the beginning of every sentence makes me have a picture of him as a sad man walking in the world with no type vision of a future for him self. The author makes himself look like he’s a Mr. Nobody, he states that he has never done anything great like making a discovery or “… leave behind me any wealthy bequest to found a hospital or library”. What I believe is that he once thought that maybe one day he was going to do something in his life that would help or inspire someone else, this way people would of remember him as someone who made a difference. But all he has accomplished is leaving “Only a few carols, vibrating through the air … For comrades and lovers” and for him this wasn’t enough.

It seems a bit ironic to me that if Whitman though of him self this way, as being a person of no accomplishments right now he would have  be proud of himself; we are here reading his poems and embarrassing his great literature, he didn’t leave just a “few carols, vibrating through the air”, he left great works! But yet, why is it any good if he is not here to see it. Why do people want to be remembered by doing something, if when they were here no one ever appreciated their hard work?

This poem makes me question my self if I will ever be remember by anyone out side my family. Will I ever do anything great for people to have an idea of who I was? Or do I even want to be remember as a person who brought something to this world?

The Many Lives in Walt Whitman’s “When I read the Book”

When I read the Book

WHEN I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this, then, (said I,) what the author calls a man’s life?
And so will some one, when I am dead and gone, write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life;
Why, even I myself, I often think, know little or nothing of my real life;          5
Only a few hints—a few diffused, faint clues and indirections,
I seek, for my own use, to trace out here.)

In Walt Whitman’s poem “When I read the Book,” I used the Follow the Trail close reading method to pick out the instances that Whitman mentions the word “life” or details in reference to life in order to analyze the text. He repeats the word life four times in the poem, thereby imbuing the use of the word with greater meaning by each mention. In the first mention, Whitman writes of “a man’s life,” where he intends for “man” to substitute for “human,” (although any person for which a famous biography would be written would have been male back then.) “A man’s life” has a fossilized connotation, as if it is a preserved specimen or chronology left for posterity. Whitman implies that there is no agency left for the man whose life has been compiled, but only agency in the hands of the author, who can construe the man’s life to have been anything from the author’s imagination. There is also a quality of determinism or passivity to Whitman’s description of “a man’s life,” as if the end product of a well lived existence is simply to be recorded into a famous biography.

Whitman then flips the subject to his own life, when he mentions “my life” in the second repetition. Specifically, he is afraid of his own life being subjected to this kind of preservation and arbitrary reinterpretation at the hands of a future author. In this mention, Whitman contrasts his life with his future as being dead and gone. In a metaphysical sense, his life will take on a new existence as his soul leaves his body, but in an empirical sense, his “life” will potentially carry on in the form of a book.

Then, in the third mention of “my life,” Whitman is capitalizing on this distinct notion both as his whole lived existence and as a kind of “truth” of what exactly happened through the years he was alive. He refutes the idea that any man could know anything of his life, deriding this as an impossibility. In the 1867 version of the poem, he even mentions his cunning soul that hides a secret well. In this mention, Whitman conveys that there is a sense of mystery that shrouds any objective truth about his life.

Finally, Whitman turns all of the above meanings on their head in his final mention of “my real life.”  The word “real” can be contrasted with the first mention of “a man’s life,” as Whitman implies how vastly different the real can be from the historicized and imagined. The fossil can only contain a sliver of the truth. Even Whitman himself knows little or nothing of his real life, he states, which might be slightly more than the “aught” that any man knows, but it is still far from enough to write an accurate non-fiction book about himself. It is like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where the man who ventures out of the cave to see “real” objects and is killed for it, while the believers of the shadows continue to live on. From this meaning, we can come to understand that Whitman may not simply be writing about books and lived experiences, but also making a bigger statement about human society and a need to defy the usual complacency to accept records and old texts as reality and truth. Whitman may be asking us to question how much do we human beings really know and how much is just falsely believed in. There is large evidence to believe that this poem is meant to signify more than just books, as even the book is left untitled and simply called “the Book.”

 

The Intent to Live

The Intent of the author creates the value of his work.

 

William Wordsworth, The World is too much with us, creates a raw view of intention and learning. He starts by saying to what I believe that intentions are simplistic; we desire to have little and to learn little, but waste more. Wordsworth, “It moves us not–Great God! I’d rather be a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn.” Perhaps , he states he is disgusted to live with people who dwell on unimportant things. He more or less states that if we could live so simplistically, without that culture and value to ourselves, perhaps, god is not just or fair. He says he would rather live in a community free from faith/religion or values, where he would possess to be great among those who are not and do not believe in anything. “..less forlorn”, or he may possess to be less pathetic. “Have sight of Proteus…. Or hear old Triton…”.  Proteus and Triton are demigods from Greek mythology. Proteus is said to have the ability to take many forms, or to assume many roles, and to see the past, present and future, while Triton lives lavishly as the son of Poseidon. To my belief, Wordsworth uses these analogies to say that an while living in a society without faith and to those who do not value education, he would gain sight on so much more. Like, Proteus, he would have sight of the future and past of many things that has happened. It is, to learn many things, gain perspective and understanding of what we were mean to do with our life, and be great and wise. It is not to waste time with frivolous, uneducated things.

 

 

 

The Importance of Being Unimportant

Walt Whitman’s, “No Labor-Saving Machine” addresses the importance of a seemingly unimportant person’s life. From my understanding of the short piece, Whitman is answering the age old question of “How will people remember me when I’m gone?” Each line plays a role in depicting this idea and brings in the fear that many have of living an unimportant life. “No labor-saving machine,/ Nor discovery have I made,/ Nor will I be able to leave behind me any wealthy bequest to found a hospital or library,/ Nor reminiscence of any deed of courage, for America,/ Nor literary success, nor intellect – nor book for the book-shelf.” Whitman’s repetition of the word “nor” at the start of lines 2-4 emphasizes the lack of a significant impact the subject of this piece has on the world around them. They have made no contribution to society which eases the burdens of mankind, and likewise have not made any footprints in the literary world. Such a view of a person’s life is not an uncommon one, as in this day and age living a normal life can often be seen as living an irrelevant one.

In the last two lines of the piece, Whitman states “Only a few carols, vibrating through the air, I leave,/ For comrades and lovers,” meaning that a person who lives such an “unimportant” life may only be of meaning to the people closest to them.  This idea is one that correlates with one major theme that I picked up on in the book, “The Little Prince.” The prince in the story seemed to arrive on Earth to meet a person of inconsequence, at least in the grand scheme of his existence. It was merely chance that brought the two together but that meeting opened the eyes of the stranded man in the desert. He learned from the young prince that the worth of something lies in the eyes of the beholder and the connection one makes with it. While a single rose on the prince’s planet was a true rare beauty, on Earth it was just another plant. The difference was that the little prince had a connection with his rose, and it was unique for that reason. Such a connection gave it worth and meaning in a world of millions of seemingly minuscule and unrelated existences. One may leave no significant impact on humankind and may pass away unnoticed, but they will mean the world to the people they make connections with. Such connections give them an importance that surpasses even the most famous inventor or writer.

This piece by Walt Whitman really made me think about my own ambitions in life. At a school like Baruch, so many people are interested in making something of themselves and proving to the world that they are worthy of recognition. Such competition cannot allow for us all to be remembered for some act of genius that improves the world for generations to come. This idea made me start to think, “How will I make my life mean something to the people around me? How will I become the single unique rose in the bush?”

Books, A Disguised Threat?

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s oration delivered to the most brightest students of Harvard was an odd approach, yet clarified what the real definition of a scholar is.

“Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.” (Emerson 15) Emerson devotes much of his attention on the influence of books. He states that books pose danger to readers although we gain knowledge of the past. He questions if it does benefit us by showing us a picture into the past but pose a great danger, what is the real use of books? The question he raised made me think differently. As a student, we are so absorbed in reading chapters in time for the next lecture class without fully enjoying the subject. Our priority is to get a general understanding of the text for the purpose of doing well in our exams. We would learn the material but as Emerson mentioned, we would not think anything beyond than what is presented within the printed pages. According to Emerson, scholars are of no difference since they can also suffer from the undue influence of books. In fact, books are just there to inspire if the genius remain stuck with the concepts that it projects and are prohibited to explore new ideas of their own. Thus, Emerson suggests books should only be a resort to true scholars if they are unable to use their minds and apply it creatively.

I couldn’t agree more to Emerson. Although we devote our time to read books, we pay little or no attention to thinking outside the box. Rather than relying on what a book is trying to say, creativity must be fostered. Books may be the heart of endless knowledge but they should not restrict our thoughts.

Break Free From Traditions

Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered one of the most influential speeches, “The American Scholar” to Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society. This society compromised of an honorary society of male students with stunning grade point averages. In this address, Emerson pushed to separate the way American writers, artists, and philosophers, create their own works separate from European traditions. Emerson conveys his message using various elements, one element that was very prominent was the usage of metaphors. Emerson paints a picture of how society, once whole, has become divided in several factions with a more refined purpose to live their life. I would say this was crucial in Emerson’s success in motivating his audience to create works that are original.”But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters, — a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man,” (Paragraph 4). Emerson compares the society to a fountain of power which has divided into droplets of water that can not become united into one substance. In doing so, he makes in very clear of what his stance is on the ideology of jobs. He creates a metaphor to create a visualization of what it really means to be a separate entity from others. He also creates another visual image for readers, by comparing members in society as “monsters”. As though they are individual body parts, attempting to function as a whole, but never succeeding in doing so. At first I was confused when Emerson introduces the term, “Man Thinking”, in which is his way of saying those that deem themselves as writers must take their thoughts and turn them into a reality.

Great Works Vs. Action & Belief

Throughout Ralph Aldo Emerson’s oration on August 31,1837, “The American Scholar” a constant theme arises, take action and listen to your beliefs. His speech was kind of a bizarre way to reach out to the Phi Beta Kappa society which were the elite members at the top of their class at Harvard.

“Yet hence arises a grave mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation, — the act of thought, — is transferred to the record. The poet chanting, was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforward it is settled, the book is perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly, the book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened, having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry, if it is disparaged. Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.” (Emerson,13).

In this paragraph in particular Emerson has a way of kind of challenging what these students have been taught their whole college careers. Action versus reading books. Emerson is very insistent that just because great leaders of the past have shared their intellect via books and novels doesn’t mean that these are guides on how to go about leading your life. Emerson states that the ones who first wrote these “great pieces of work” were just young men like yourselves sitting in a library, challenging other great works and the authors who wrote those books. Great works are only great works because they are viewed that way. By reading great works they are suppose to inspire you and ignite the creation from within, not create a “bookworm” who accept the views of another person.

Actions of an “American Scholar”

On August 31,  1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivers an oration called “The American Scholar” to the elite members of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society of Harvard University. These member consisted of students that were known to have the highest GPAs and the brightest students of the school. Emerson uses the speech to convey a message to express the influences of the nature around themselves in real scholars today, and emphasizes what it truly means to be a scholar.

“Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it, he is not yet man. Without it, thought can never ripen into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action. Only so much do I know, as I have lived. Instantly we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not.” (Emerson, 21) Emerson uses the quote to explain the epitome and duties of an American Scholar. In todays society, it is simply not enough to be just smart. Having action, being able to apply yourself into the real world is essential. Putting yourself out there, being able to meet new people, letting your guard down to make connections to experts in the field can help you go further in life unlike someone that is smart in the books but doesn’t apply themselves outside of the world of reading and testing. Where the quote also states that not taking action would be considered as cowardly. The world around us is a reference. Emerson believes that we should use what is provided to use as keys to unlock our greatest potential through action and belief.

 

 

Look inside yourSELF to be a scholar

In Ralph Emerson’s speech “The American Scholar”, he gives a surprising and new message to his Harvard student listeners. Emerson stresses to his audience what it truly means to be a scholar, however this definition of scholar isn’t what these students are. Emerson was transcendentalist himself, and his speech was full of transcendental themes as his definition of what a true scholar is was based on transcendental principles. Around paragraph 31 of his speech, Emerson begins to use the term ‘self’ such as “self-relying”, “self-trust”, and “self-directed”. Emerson is telling these listeners (students) that if they want to be the true scholars that they think they are, they need to think for themselves. This idea of self and Emerson’s emphasis on it reflects the overall message Emerson is trying to get across to the listeners. Emerson is trying to send a message to his listeners that they need to always remain independent in their thinking and in their actions. Although reading is good and necessary as Emerson says, he wants to stress to these students that they need to put the books down and stop glorifying these dead thinkers from Europe. In the eyes of Emerson, if you want to be a true scholar you need to develop your own thoughts in isolation in order to discover universal ideas. Emerson stresses the idea of self-trust and repeats it in the paragraph to show the listeners that this ‘truth’ is present in all of us and can be found if we look for it. Emerson is telling these students to stop glorifying the writers and thinkers of the books they’re reading and instead find their self-worth within themselves rather than these other thinkers. If we can understand the reasons Emerson emphasizes the sense of self and his transcendental background, we as readers can better understand Emerson’s definition of what a true scholar is.