Walt Whitman Passage to India Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

This lack of tradition is what makes Whitman seem slightly worried towards the middle of the poem. He seems adamant to remind the audience that, though this technology is amazing and beautiful in its own way, we should not allow it to eclipse the wonders of the past. Much of this poem can serve as a warning to make sure that we also bring along our poetic sensibilities as we embark on the path to the future since it is this poetic sense and the soul that brings us to new heights even as we feel we have reached the pinnacle of achievement with amazing machines.

The connection of man to nature is also of great concern to Whitman as he writes "Passage to India." In the fourth passage, Whitman sees two physical worlds, "of tableaus twain" (43); one is the ancient and rich world of the East, the other the advanced, but essentially shallow Western world. As a man, Whitman separates these two worlds, "in one, again, different," but he sees that his soul has the ability to connect the two "(yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same)" (49). Since, in this poem, the East represents the mysterious, the ethereal, and the connection to God, Whitman is comforted that his soul can reach these places even from his place in the New World, which seems to lack these qualities.

Whitman does not see that the soul is the only connection to the spiritual that the Western World is afforded though. Throughout "Passage to India" Whitman presents the complicated and dynamic relationship between man and nature, technology and the soul. In the third passage, Whitman states,

Lo, soul! seest thou not God's purpose from the first?

The earth to be spann'd, connected by net-work,

The people to become brothers and sisters,

The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,

The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near, 35

The lands to be welded together.

As his sentiments move more in this direction he is showing how the soul can take advantage of these advances to widen its journey. This technology allows for a broader connection to its fellow man, and its ability to travel and explore the tangible parts of the world. In this way, he feels that technology is not merely a man-made invention, but a testament to God's creation of man. Later, in passage five, he seems to express that, though the soul is capable of travel without these advances, the dreams of the soul are realized through human ambition and technology. He also seems to hint that technology may be the way for man to fulfill his ultimate purpose on Earth, "With inscrutable purpose -- some hidden, prophetic intention; / Now, first, it seems, my thought begins to span thee" (87-88). Whitman feels that in the end, when all the scientific discoveries have been made, and all the technology has been invented, the only thing that will remain is poetry. It is through the soul that man will continue to explore new frontiers; even when nothing else is left for us to know on this plane, we always have the mysterious of God and creation to consider.

Ultimately, Whitman clearly states that the soul will not suffer from man's intellectual restlessness. Instead it will soar to new heights on the rising tide of technology, and use these advances to reach even further than it ever has before. But even so, the reach of poetry and the soul is far beyond anything that man can make or design since it has the capability to reach into the ancient past as well as into the future. Even if time machines were finally invented, they would still not compare to the ability of the soul to understand its own existence, and to make connections with the past and with other souls. The poet's ability to connect with God and to explore all the recesses of man's existence is where the soul's true potential lay, not with the advance of machinery and technology. Though Whitman does accept and appreciate technology "I welcome, and fully, the same as the rest; / You too with joy I sing" (28-29), he feels that the soul is the real past, present, and future of mankind.

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