But in this movie of music and drama, there is one scene that made me fly: The graduation performance at the end of the movie.
The song they sing, “I sing the body electric” always sends my heart soaring, my soul expanding, my eyes tear.
The final stanza of the poem gives a catalogue of body parts, both the poet’s and others’.
The parts listed have functions, of course, but they also provide the raw materials for poetry: “these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul.” The body becomes sacred through its linkage with the soul; while it is only the soul’s helper or accomplice, it nevertheless does not deserve second-rate status, for it enables not only spirituality but also poetry.
It talks of how changing what you see of yourself can help you become what you are supposed to be.
It is kind of ironic that this song of accepting one’s own talents hits me so hard.Sexuality was not something to be left unspoken or concealed; it was one of the most vital aspects of life.Again in “Song of Myself,” he described himself as “hankering, gross, mystical, nude” and said that, like a hawk, he would sound his “barbaric yawp.” The celebration of the physical and the sexual in “I Sing the Body Electric” was indeed too barbaric for the sensibilities of many people in the nineteenth century. I don’t remember if I watched it in the theater, but I must have — because the music has run through my brain all my adult life. But the music of the movie touched my life like few things have.Women are of course generative in the same literal sense in this poem.The eighth stanza opens with the image of “[a] woman’s body at auction”: obviously a slave auction.Even Whitman supporter Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly advised him not to include the poem (or the sexual and homoerotic “Calamus” poems) in the 1860 edition, but Whitman held to his artistic vision. A few years later, Whitman was fired from a government post after a superior read the sexual poems.Whitman presents his glimpses of the body almost as quick snapshots, and he is both observer and participant in the scenes and experiences.The farmer is seen through the eyes of his children, who “love him.” While the love of the children is not presented erotically, it shades into the erotic gaze of the poet, who longs to “sit by him...that [I] and he might touch each other.” The ability of this simple man to build a sort of family dynasty seems to be what attracts the poet.