Daniel Ahn The Genius of Walt Whitman One of America’s greatest poets in history, Walt Whitman, wrote the masterpiece “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” which is a literary masterpiece that showcases sincere and genuine feeling through his facility of words. Whitman utilizes certain words to enhance his diction to create a somber yet hopeful tone and parallelism to create a more melodious elegy that has lasted through the centuries. Whitman uses his diction to create a dark melancholy aura. Early in the poem, Whitman says, “… shades of night… moody… , tearful night…. Black murk that hides the star… (Whitman 8-9). The dark description of the night evokes a kind of solemn regret that facilitates the creation ofa proper mental image of the dark night. Again Whitman reiterates the darkness by saying, “… great cloud darkening… dirges through the night… ” (Whitman 34-40). He chooses to use “darkening” to show that the cloud looming over them is casting a heavy shadow over the people. “Dirges” are used in place of songs in order to convey the mournful demeanor of the music that was played. Whitman makes use of diction by choosing words that have a certain solemn onnotation in order to create a dark setting.
Although the words Whitman writes could create a dark, heavy setting, they also create a sense of hopefulness. He says, “… heavenly aerial beauty… arching heavens… summer approaching… ” (Whitman 111-112). He utilizes “heavenly’ and “arching heavens” to prove that even though a tragedy has occurred, there will always be hope. Later, he uses “summer approaching” and “throbb’d” in order to convey the vibrant life and hope which is yet to come but will nevertheless arrive even after the sorrow that follows the death of the president.
Whitman places parallelism in plenty of paragraphs to create a flow within the poem. When Whitman writes, “As I walkd… As I saw… As you… ” it creates a unique flow by repeating the first word every line. (Whitman 57-65). A beat is created by the repetition of the word “as”, and the nuance which forms is very musical. He also says, “O painful… O the black… O cruel… O helpless… O harsh… ” (Whitman 7-11). The usage of the word “O” forms a melodious beat that is improved by the repetition like the chorus of a song. Whitman clearly displays parallelism in order to create
Whitman uses many techniques to enhance his writing. He specifically uses certain words to set the mood for each of his settings. For example, for the somber and darker scenes of the poem, Whitman uses diction such as “Dirges”, “black murk”, and “great cloud darkening” to show rather than tell the reader how dark and heavy with sadness the air is right after the death of one of their greatest leaders. In addition to making the landscape somber, Whitman makes the scene more hopeful and bright with a quick reversal; he changes the types of words he uses.
For instance, he uses heavenly’ and “arching heavens” to create a setting of hopefulness. Also, he makes use of parallelism to give the poem a more melodious tune that is pleasant to read and can further convey his message by stating lines that repeat the word “As” or “O” for instance. Through a combination of well chosen diction and parallelism, Whitman is able to convey the hope that shines through a melancholy situation in an elegy. Works Cited Whitman, Walt. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”. Civil War Poetry and Prose. 3 Ed. Candice Ward. New York; Dover Publications Inc. , 1995. 27-33. Print.