Walt Whitman‘s Live Oak, With Moss, is an intricate portrayal of love, both physical and mental. Throughout the poem, Whitman incorporates an array of metaphors symbolic of love and the many characteristics associated with love. Dissimilar to mainstream poetry, Whitman introduces a friend-lover relationship between two men, describing the pain and happiness associated with their love.
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Throughout Live Oak, With Moss, Whitman illustrates the great pleasure associated with love. Introducing his love as a consuming burning flame, Whitman affectively gains the complete attention of the reader. Once convenient, Whitman begins to describe the many sensations associated with his love. Using the wind, the water, fire and nature as his tools, Whitman encompasses the reader with a sense of warmth and love. Before venturing on to specifics, Whitman reveals the meaning of Live Oak, With Moss. Symbolic of himself, he describes the Live Oak, With Moss as a rude, unbending, and lusty creature, alone in a field, with only soft moss for comfort. The significance of the description is overwhelming. Whitman sees himself as a rude, closed-minded, and lusty person, who spends a considerable amount of time alone. However, Whitman views himself as a different person when he is in the company of his companion. With the live Oak representing Whitman, and the tender green Moss representing Whitman‘s companion, these two separate entities form one. Happy, loving, and open-minded, the love emanating from Whitman is a sign of true life.
As the poem progresses on, Whitman uncovers the sadness of his life. Viewing praise as a hollow feeling, Whitman expresses his constant sadness in life. “When I heard at the close of the day how I had been praised in the Capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that followed; Nor when I caroused-Nor when my favorite planes were accomplished-was, I really happy”
In these simple lines, Whitman is depicting the feelings of a life without love. Being uninhibited by love, Whitman was robbed of all the subtle feelings which are associated with love. Without diversion, Whitman moves directly to the happiness in his life. Unaccustomed to the characteristics associated with true love, Whitman stumbles through life, pursuing the most outstanding goals, always assuming that happiness lies at the end of the hardest journey. Looking back upon decades of sadness, Whitman informs the reader that the pursuit of happiness is not the pursuit of excellence, but the pursuit of love.
Over the remainder of the poem, Whitman discredits the life which he set out upon as a young man, claiming that it was foolish to rely on knowledge as the key to happiness. Further opposing his work, Whitman asks the reader not to know and love his poems, but to know and love the author. Additionally, Whitman suggests that in order to truly understand and appreciate poetry, one must both understand and appreciate the poet.
Towards completion of the poem, Whitman moves steadily closer to his goal of happiness. Disclosing a new and positive attitude, Whitman proceeds to establish himself as a teacher of love. One who didn’t learn early on, but through knowledge and time was blessed with the happiness that can only be attributed to love.