Sunday, March 6, 2011

"I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ" Anaylsis

"I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ" by Walt Whitman is about a man who is walking past a church. He hears the choir singing and the organ playing, and the emotions that the music causes him to feel remind him of his love. This poem contains all of the usual trappings of a work by Whitman. Themes of religion are present in the church and the music. Religion could also be present in that the love that Whitman is feeling is the love he felt for Christ as he was praying the night before. Love is represented by his thinking of his love when he hears the music. The poem itself is written in free verse, with no rhyme scheme. Nature is also present in the line, "Winds of autumn, as I walk'd the woods at dusk I heard your long-stretch'd sighs up above so mournful" (Whitman). I liked that imagery, and I think it ties in nicely with "I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn I pass'd the church" (Whitman). Both images bring to mind that same kind of low pitched wind sound that I have always found relaxing.
At first I did not really understand this poem, but then I read the analysis that I found by Charles Oliver, and that really helped me to understand it better. Oliver brings up the issue of whether or not the lover that Whitman mentions is a male or female. That he brings this up at all shows previous knowledge of Whitman's other forays into the world of homosexuality. Oliver just assumes that the lover is a woman based on the title of that particular section being "Children of Adam". Anyway, that whole question is also typical of Whitman. He often left things deliberately ambiguous, which, at the time, was pretty scandalous. Now it just kind of seems like a waste of time.
The Everyman is present in this poem if you squint and read heavily in between the lines. Anyone could be walking past a church or through a forest and hearing music and the wind respectively. Hearing such things, many would become reflective, and some might even think of their lovers. That's kind of a far leap, but it could happen.
Whitman uses a lot of imagery in this poem. He likens his lover's pulse to little bells ringing in his ears. He describes the sound of the pipe organs as "solemn-sweet", which I liked because those two words really do describe how a pipe organ sounds.
Self is really only present in this poem, as far as I understand, in the way the poet is reflecting on something that he holds dear as he hears the wind and the pipe organ. Our Self is shaped by those around us, and the poet has obviously been deeply impacted by the person he is thinking of in the poem.
Whitman successfully manages to relate music to love, and then he reflects upon that love. Though this poem was short, it still managed to artfully capture a moment in time.

Oliver, Charles M. "'I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ'." Critical Companion to Walt Whitman: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. CCWW198&SingleRecord=True (accessed March 6, 2011).

Whitman, Walt. "I HEARD YOU SOLEMN-SWEET PIPES OF THE ORGAN. (Leaves of Grass [1891-1892])." The Walt Whitman Archive. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. .

No comments:

Post a Comment