Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
This is obviously a defiance of the social restriction (especially on women) against appreciating the body. The nineteenth century America was terribly conservative, and Whitman's poetry was repulsive for many such reasons. The speaker of the poem is probably looking at the whole scene from a distance, and he pities the woman: "Twenty-eight ears of womanly life and all so lonesome." The men are not conscious. He even imaginatively speaks to her. The men's beards shined, and streams of water flowed down their bodies, and "an unseen hand passed over their bodies and it descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs..." The poet is referring to the woman's desire of caressing the handsome bodies. Modern readers might also guess that the poet is playing with an almost homo-erotic image! From the woman's viewpoint at least, it is enchanting to see the young men floating 'on their backs'.
Shrestha, Roma. "Song of Myself Section 11 by Walt Whitman: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 21 Mar. 2018, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/song-of-myself-summary-and-analysis-of-section-11.html.
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