Summary and Analysis: Calamus So Long!


The poet remembers his promise that as his "Leaves" blossomed, he would raise his joyous voice at the "consummations" of his ideals and objectives. When "America does what was promis'd — that is, fulfills her promise — he will have a sense of fulfillment. In reviewing his work, he takes note of his announcements on justice, liberty, equality, the identity of the states and the Union, adhesiveness, the great individual, the copious life, the "race of splendid . . . men." The best of him, he says, will remain embodied in these announcements. In a passionate tone he asks: "Is there a single final farewell?" His songs "cease"; he "abandons" them and advances "solely" toward the reader. Leaves of Grass is himself: "Camerado, this is no book,/ Who touches this touches a man." In a final note of farewell, Whitman addresses his reader: "I love you, I depart from materials,/I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead."

This poem has a double meaning. It is an expression of both a welcome and a farewell. Whitman reviews his message, anticipates life in death, and looks forward to the "athletic bands" which will be created and inspired by his Leaves. The poet, who has a prophetic tone of voice, creates the illusion of his physical person in words such as "this is no book . . . [but] a man." The concluding note is mystical because the poet looks to "an unknown sphere," moves away from "materials," and ceases to be merely physical. Thus the journey of his life ends at a destination which is the fulfillment of the mystical urge.