I'm studying Walt Whitman's poetry and one of his poems (Come Up From thne Fields, Father) I am finding difficult to find its history and significance, as well as interpretations of the poem (What and How it was written). I could really use some professional poet's advice.
You can read the poem at:
My e-mail is:
Thank You very much!!!
Come Up From The Fields, Father
by: Walt Whitman
COME up from the fields, father, here's a letter from our Pete;
And come to the front door, mother--here's a letter from thy dear
Lo, 'tis autumn;
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages, with leaves fluttering in the
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang, and grapes on the trellis'd
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat, where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky, so calm, so transparent after the rain, and
with wondrous clouds;
Below, too, all calm, all vital and beautiful--and the farm prospers
Down in the fields all prospers well;
But now from the fields come, father--come at the daughter's call;
And come to the entry, mother--to the front door come, right away.
Fast as she can she hurries--something ominous--her steps trembling;
She does not tarry to smoothe her hair, nor adjust her cap.
Open the envelope quickly;
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd;
O a strange hand writes for our dear son--O stricken mother's soul!
All swims before her eyes--flashes with black--she catches the main
Sentences broken--gun-shot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish,
taken to hospital, 20
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah, now, the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio, with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face, and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through
The little sisters huddle around, speechless and dismay'd
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be
better, that brave and simple soul
While they stand at home at the door, he is dead already; 30
The only son is dead.
But the mother needs to be better;
She, with thin form, presently drest in black;
By day her meals untouch'd--then at night fitfully sleeping, often
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed--silent from life, escape and
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
Regarding the how/what and significance of the poem, I think all you need to know is that Whitman was a medic in the Civil War.
He saw young men dying by hundreds and thousands, and he may have written letters to families saying, "Before he died, your son asked me to write and tell you..."
Perhaps he wrote this poem full of rural images and personal details as a way of repelling the numbness, to preventing himself from thinking of the dead soldiers in termps of constantly increasing numbers.
I agree with Marian-- definitely a Civil War poem.
Here's a couple of sites for you to learn more. The Walt Whitman archive at the University of Virginia has 'an introduction to Whitman's Civil War years.' (link below) Actually, the whole site looks pretty good.
This site is a Library of Congress link
I've also seen a book containing Whitman letters and poems of the Civil War. You might check your local university libraries to see if it's available.
Hope it helps.
"as well as interpretations of the poem
(What and How it was written)"
What and how it was written is too large a question. Start out with smaller ones. e.g.:
What kind of words does he use? formal ones?, what kind of imagery is used? Close you're eyes and see if you can "see" the scene. Wonderfull isn't it? With what words did he do that? What do we know about the boy who died? Does it matter? So what is the/a theme of the poem? etc.
Who is the 'speaker' in the poem?
Not to criticize my betters, but I did not care for this one all that much.
No rhyme, no rhythm, no imagery (smell you the smell of grapes ... ?
Surely a poet can do better than that!) Used 'Lo' too many times, for sure.
A poorly written tear-jerker, with no point to it that I could determine.
I have never been much of a Whitman fan, must be my serious English poetry prejudices. So, I was wandering aimlessly through some of his poems here in the archive, looking to see if any of his poems rhymed, when I found this in I Sing the Body Electric which has line numbers attached:
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. 10
Bo Derek is alive and well and living in the emule archive!
I'm okay with Whitman-- believe me, when you come to his work in an American Lit course filled with Puritans, it sounds great! He was definitely not a rhymester, though.