The poet desires to travel the untrodden paths which previously were denied him by "all the standards" and "conformities." In a "secluded spot," far "away from the clank of the world," the poet can at last, in his "forty-first year," "respond as I would not dare elsewhere." He resolves to sing songs of "manly attachment" and "types of athletic love," and "to celebrate the need of comrades."
The untrodden paths to which Whitman refers are unknown and unpredictable human behavior. They also indicate the freethinking of skeptics and dissenters. The Calamus grows in a secluded place near a pond, which suggests serenity and peace. Calamus gives joy to the poet's spirit which, until then, fed on mere materialistic pleasures. He had suppressed his spiritual impulses, which should have found full expression; now, at last, he begins to walk those unused paths. It is a journey of selfdiscovery. He is now in communion with nature, and his inmost being responds freely. He thus realizes different levels of athletic love and manly attachment. The significance of the term "athletic" probably lies in strong, physical love; "manly attachment" suggests the affectionate relationship between comrades. But both these emotions are essentially spiritual.