ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing"

Updated on May 18, 2020
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Walt Whitman


Introduction and Excerpt from "I Hear America Singing"

"Song" becomes a useful metaphor for contentedness in "I Hear America Singing." Whitman's speaker is describing in the metaphor of "song" the activities of the working people whom he may encounter during the day. By claiming to hear them "singing," he renders them cheerful and skilled in their labor. The speaker's heart is overflowing with praise for his fellow citizens.

Each of the eleven lines sprawls across the page and spills into the adjoining line to facilitate a new line. The elongated sentences must be broken in unusual ways to accommodate the thoughts that this speaker wishes to share. Whitman's free verse style virtually always employs this rambling, sprawling form as he catalogues all the things his speakers see, hear, think, feel, or enjoy.

Excerpt from "I Hear America Singing"

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work . . .

To read the entire poem, please visit "I Hear America Singing" at Poetry Foundation.

Reading of "I Hear America Singing"


Walt Whitman creates a speaker who is offering a musical tribute to the laborers of America; they cheerfully sing as they work. This 19th century effusion also recognizes the partiers who fill the night time with their good cheer.

Singing Songs of Praise

As the speaker commences his tribute, he reports that he hears "America singing." Each song he encounters is unique. Each "song" constitutes a different carol, not ordinary in the least, but each one offering praise and demonstrating joy in its being. The joy and praise impress the speaker so much that he seems to be bursting with pride to be a part of such an honorable conglomeration of laboring folks. His admiration makes him abundantly happy as he sings himself, making his poem.

As the speaker observes his fellow citizens, he becomes optimistic, and his feelings no doubt color his reportage. He offers what one might expect to be an exaggeration of the joy and gratitude that seem to envelope people who are ordinary workers. These folks are certainly not likely to become sycophants of the nothing-to-lose-but-our-chains crowd.

Mechanics, Carpenters, Boatmen, et al

The speaker then commences listing the varied laborers whom he hears singing their joyous, praise songs. First, he hears the mechanics. Each mechanic remains busy working in his own unique way. The speaker finds their manner "blithe and strong."

The speaker then mentions the carpenter whose song sings out the measurement of "plank or beam." The mason is singing while he prepares himself for his work day even before he leaves for work.

The speaker hears the boatman caroling about the items that he possesses, items that fill his boat, while the deckhand also is singing on the steamboat's deck. The shoemaker is also singing, working at his bench, as the hat maker offers his carols where he stands.

A Mother's Delicious Singing

Continuing his catalogue, the speaker hears the "wood-cutter" and the farmer, who is plowing his fields in the morning, at noon, and even as the sun sets in the evening. A mother's carols exemplify a "delicious" song. The young wife is singing as she works, and a girl, who is likely serving as a maid, also sings as she sews and does the laundry.

All of these ordinary folks are performing their tasks uniquely that only each of them can perform. They are not a faceless mass of working slobs; they are unique each and all. They deserve respect; they deserve affection and attention, and the speaker is demanding that they receive that respect, affection, and attention.

Young Fellows and Party Time

There is a time for work, and there is a time for leisure. The speaker's respect for work is equalled by his respect for party time. The time of fellowship is also important as the revelers sing their leisure time. Just as workers, they have offered their service, now as partiers they demonstrate that time away from work is also valuable.

The speaker describes the partiers: "At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, / Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs."

While daytime offers all the beautiful songs of various workers and service providers, nighttime offers a time for the beautiful songs of leisure, fellowship, and renewal of spirit. The sweet melodies of work and leisure are all significant and well worth noting.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)