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Sparkles From The Wheel Analysis

Author: Poetry of Walt Whitman Type: Poetry Views: 663

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WHERE the city's ceaseless crowd moves on, the live-long day,

Withdrawn, I join a group of children watching--I pause aside with


By the curb, toward the edge of the flagging,

A knife-grinder works at his wheel, sharpening a great knife;

Bending over, he carefully holds it to the stone--by foot and knee,

With measur'd tread, he turns rapidly--As he presses with light but

firm hand,

Forth issue, then, in copious golden jets,

Sparkles from the wheel.

The scene, and all its belongings--how they seize and affect me!

The sad, sharp-chinn'd old man, with worn clothes, and broad

shoulder-band of leather;10

Myself, effusing and fluid--a phantom curiously floating--now here

absorb'd and arrested;

The group, (an unminded point, set in a vast surrounding;)

The attentive, quiet children--the loud, proud, restive base of the


The low, hoarse purr of the whirling stone--the light-press'd blade,

Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,

Sparkles from the wheel.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Walt Whitman vibrantly depicts a knife-grinder sharpening his knife in the opening stanza of Sparkles from the Wheel. He vividly describes him diligently sharpening his knife as he holds the stone carefully, by foot and knee. Whitman brilliantly uses the description of the sharp blade swiftly slicing against the stone to create a fantastic image which essentially would lead to symbolism in the poem. The symbolism in the poem would indirectly symbolize the divinity of the nature of man. Man himself is not considered divine at any level, however Whitman while using an excellent technique of personification (giving life to inanimate objects) to give verve to the sparks that fly off of the man’s sharpened knife. Whitman uses images of divinity throughout the poem by referring to the copious golden jets which he uses to describe the sparks flying off the knife of the knife-grinder. The sparkles from the wheel represent the deeper meaning of what an everyday, average worker does and what meaning it gives to life. Divinity comes into play being that Whitman has given life to the sparkles from the wheel. His use of personification is meaningful because the knife-grinder is symbolized as a greater being other than him. Reference to God or Jesus is usually the idea when comparing one to divinity; however Whitman simply depicts the knife grinder as a higher power or essence. By his sparks causing the sparkles from the wheel would imply compare the ordinary knife grinder to a greater power such as God which would lead to the knife grinder creating a meaningful and influential entity out of something lifeless and dull.
-Peter Orphanides 16 yrs

| Posted on 2008-10-27 | by a guest

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Walt Whitman vividly depicts a setting of a man (of earlier ages) diligently working on sharpening a knife. Typically, this type of behavior would be of the norm in his time and a visually bland spectacle. Whitman, however, uses the product of friction between the blade and the spinning wheel to create an optically superb display. Images that could potentially hint at the manifestation of divinity can found in abundance within the text. Walt describes the sparks as “copious golden jets” and “tiny showers of gold” hinting at signs of or relating to the celestial. One could also interpret that the simple knife-grinder is a symbolic figure of the heavens. The bible usually invests divine potency in the down trot yet hardworking rather than the rich and greedy. This would be the case for the knife-grinder as well; he apparently isn’t well established financially as he is described to be a “sad sharp-chinn’d old man with worn clothes and broad shoulder-band of leather” and is undergoing work of wearisome labor. That being said, his divinity is apparent in that he is granted the ability to entice and essentially mind-numb a large audience with his craft. Another possible interpretation is that he is creating life where there was none. Divinity is palpable in that act and one could argue that he does it by being able to manifest a sight that allures and mesmerizes others with “showers of gold” spewing from two inanimate objects. Conversely, one could argue that neither the sparks nor gold are alive but the poet grants the sparks action rather than giving it to the knife grinder. Walt says the sparks are “diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers”. Due to his personification, the sparks in his poem are indeed alive thus paralleling the knife grinder to God; creating life where there is none.
-Khoreece Mendoza

| Posted on 2008-10-27 | by a guest

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