'Proud Music Of The Storm' by Walt Whitman

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PROUD music of the storm!
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies!
Strong hum of forest tree-tops! Wind of the mountains!
Personified dim shapes! you hidden orchestras!
You serenades of phantoms, with instruments alert,
Blending, with Nature's rhythmus, all the tongues of nations;
You chords left us by vast composers! you choruses!
You formless, free, religious dances! you from the Orient!
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts;
You sounds from distant guns, with galloping cavalry!10
Echoes of camps, with all the different bugle-calls!
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber--Why have you seiz'd me?

Come forward, O my Soul, and let the rest retire;
Listen--lose not--it is toward thee they tend;
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance, O Soul.

A festival song!
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride--a marriage-march,
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers, fill'd to the brim with
The red-flush'd cheeks, and perfumes--the cortege swarming, full of
friendly faces, young and old,
To flutes' clear notes, and sounding harps' cantabile.

Now loud approaching drums!
Victoria! see'st thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying?
the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?

(Ah, Soul, the sobs of women--the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames--the blacken'd ruins--the embers of
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)

Now airs antique and medieval fill me!
I see and hear old harpers with their harps, at Welsh festivals:30
I hear the minnesingers, singing their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the feudal ages.

Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous--while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising, rest, and leaping forth, depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength--all hues we know,
Green blades of grass, and warbling birds--children that gambol and
play--the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest--maternity of all the rest;
And with it every instrument in multitudes,40
The players playing--all the world's musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses, rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting, Earth's own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves;
A new composite orchestra--binder of years and climes--ten-fold
As of the far-back days the poets tell--the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the Journeyman come home,50
And Man and Art, with Nature fused again.

Tutti! for Earth and Heaven!
The Almighty Leader now for me, for once has signal'd with his wand.

The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.

The tongues of violins!
(I think, O tongues, ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself;
This brooding, yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)

Ah, from a little child,
Thou knowest, Soul, how to me all sounds became music;60
My mother's voice, in lullaby or hymn;
(The voice--O tender voices--memory's loving voices!
Last miracle of all--O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav'd corn,
The measur'd sea-surf, beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream,
The wild-fowl's notes at night, as flying low, migrating north or
The psalm in the country church, or mid the clustering trees, the
open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern--the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep--the crowing cock at dawn.70

All songs of current lands come sounding 'round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances--English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes--and o'er the rest,
Italia's peerless compositions.

Across the stage, with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma, brandishing the dagger in her hand.

I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam;
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevell'd.

I see where Ernani, walking the bridal garden,80
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.

To crossing swords, and grey hairs bared to heaven,
The clear, electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo--Libertad forever!

From Spanish chestnut trees' dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls, a wailing song,
Song of lost love--the torch of youth and life quench'd in despair,
Song of the dying swan--Fernando's heart is breaking.

Awaking from her woes at last, retriev'd Amina sings;90
Copious as stars, and glad as morning light, the torrents of her joy.

(The teeming lady comes!
The lustrious orb--Venus contralto--the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods--Alboni's self I hear.)

I hear those odes, symphonies, operas;
I hear in the William Tell, the music of an arous'd and angry people;
I hear Meyerbeer's Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert;
Gounod's Faust, or Mozart's Don Juan.

I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, (some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in
The bolero, to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.

I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the Crusaders marching, bearing the cross on high, to the
martial clang of cymbals;
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers'd with frantic
shouts, as they spin around, turning always towards Mecca;
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs;
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing,
I hear them clapping their hands, as they bend their bodies,
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.

I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers wounding
each other;110
I see the Roman youth, to the shrill sound of flageolets, throwing
and catching their weapons,
As they fall on their knees, and rise again.

I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling;
I see the worshippers within, (nor form, nor sermon, argument, nor
But silent, strange, devout--rais'd, glowing heads--extatic faces.)

I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen;
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone;)
Or to Hindu flutes, and the fretting twang of the vina,120
A band of bayaderes.

Now Asia, Africa leave me--Europe, seizing, inflates me;
To organs huge, and bands, I hear as from vast concourses of voices,
Luther's strong hymn, Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott;
Rossini's Stabat Mater dolorosa;
Or, floating in some high cathedral dim, with gorgeous color'd
The passionate Agnus Dei, or Gloria in Excelsis.

Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands--Soprani! Tenori! Bassi!
To you a new bard, carolling free in the west,
Obeisant, sends his love.130

(Such led to thee, O Soul!
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now, it seems to me, sound leads o'er all the rest.)

I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul's Cathedral;
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies,
oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn;
The Creation, in billows of godhood laves me.

Give me to hold all sounds, (I, madly struggling, cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings--Nature's also,
The tempests, waters, winds--operas and chants--marches and
Utter--pour in--for I would take them all.

Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences--the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances, of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love, and grief and death,
I said to my silent, curious Soul, out of the bed of the slumber-
Come, for I have found the clue I sought so long,150
Let us go forth refresh'd amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish'd henceforth by our celestial dream.

And I said, moreover,
Haply, what thou hast heard, O Soul, was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk's flapping wings, nor harsh
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic--nor vast concourse of voices--nor layers
of harmonies;
Nor strophes of husbands and wives--nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps;160
But, to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems, bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night
air, uncaught, unwritten,
Which, let us go forth in the bold day, and write.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Proud Music Of The Storm: A Masterpiece of Whitman's Literary Genius

Walt Whitman, one of the most celebrated poets in American literary history, was known for his unconventional style and groundbreaking approach to poetry. His poems were often characterized by their unorthodox structure, free verse, and an unapologetic celebration of the human spirit. One of his most celebrated works, "Proud Music Of The Storm," is a powerful example of his literary genius. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll take a closer look at this masterpiece and explore its themes, imagery, and literary devices.

The Structure and Form of "Proud Music Of The Storm"

"Proud Music Of The Storm" is a free verse poem, meaning it does not follow any traditional rhyme or meter patterns. Instead, Whitman allows his words to flow freely, creating a sense of spontaneity and improvisation. The poem is divided into 15 stanzas, each consisting of varying numbers of lines. This unorthodox structure allows Whitman to experiment with different rhythms, sounds, and emotions throughout the poem.

The poem begins with the line "PROUD music of the storm," which sets the tone for the rest of the work. The word “proud” emphasizes the strength and resilience of nature, while “music" suggests that even the most chaotic forces of the natural world can be beautiful and harmonious.

The Imagery of "Proud Music Of The Storm"

Whitman's use of imagery is one of the most striking features of "Proud Music Of The Storm." Throughout the poem, he uses vivid descriptions of nature to evoke a sense of awe and wonder in the reader. For example, he writes:

"The blowing winds and the toss'd sails, and the sight of the        ships and the sounds of the waves, and the ships again        sailing away."

These lines create a vivid image of a storm-tossed sea, with ships struggling to stay afloat amidst the crashing waves. The imagery is so vivid that the reader can almost hear the sound of the wind and waves and feel the spray of the water.

Another powerful image in the poem is the "white-topt waves" that Whitman describes. This image suggests both the power and beauty of the storm, as well as its potential for destruction. The waves are both "white" and "topt," suggesting both their purity and their overwhelming force.

The Themes of "Proud Music Of The Storm"

At its core, "Proud Music Of The Storm" is a celebration of the power and beauty of nature. Throughout the poem, Whitman emphasizes the resilience of the natural world, even in the face of the most violent storms. He writes:

"O the fierce ships! O the English ships of war!        I make the fang'd mouths of them I make alive and        I dress the countenances of them..."

These lines suggest that even the most destructive forces of nature can be transformed into something beautiful and even inspiring.

Another theme that runs throughout the poem is the idea of freedom. Whitman celebrates the freedom of the natural world, as well as the freedom of the human spirit. He writes:

"O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted!        To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one can stand!        To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, death, face        to face!"

These lines suggest that true freedom comes not from avoiding challenges and difficulties, but from facing them head-on with courage and determination.

The Literary Devices of "Proud Music of the Storm"

Whitman uses a variety of literary devices in "Proud Music Of The Storm" to create a sense of unity and harmony in the poem. For example, he uses repetition throughout the poem to emphasize certain words and ideas. The phrase "proud music" appears several times throughout the poem, creating a sense of continuity and consistency.

He also uses alliteration, the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words, to create a sense of rhythm and texture in the poem. For example, in the lines "O the black murk that hides the star!" the repetition of the "k" sound gives the line a harsh, almost ominous quality.

Lastly, Whitman uses anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, to create a sense of momentum and urgency in the poem. For example, in the lines "O the gleesome saunter over fields and hillsides!... O to be a Carolinian! O longings irrepressible!" Whitman uses anaphora to build up a sense of longing and desire in the reader.


In conclusion, "Proud Music Of The Storm" is a powerful example of Walt Whitman's literary genius. Through its vivid imagery, unorthodox structure, and celebration of nature and freedom, the poem remains a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit. From its opening line to its closing stanza, Whitman's use of language and imagery creates a sense of awe and wonder in the reader, reminding us of the enduring power of poetry to move and inspire us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Proud Music Of The Storm: A Masterpiece by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century, is known for his unique style of writing that celebrates the beauty of nature and the human spirit. His poem, "Proud Music Of The Storm," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of a storm and its impact on the human soul. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and the overall message of this iconic poem.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the storm as a "mighty orchestra" that plays a "symphony" of sounds. The use of musical imagery is a recurring theme throughout the poem, as the speaker compares the storm to a conductor who directs the "chorus of the winds" and the "drumming thunder." The storm is not just a natural phenomenon, but a work of art that inspires awe and wonder in the speaker.

The storm is also described as a "soul" that is "passionate" and "fierce." This personification of the storm adds a sense of drama and intensity to the poem, as if the storm is a living entity with its own emotions and desires. The storm is not just a force of nature, but a symbol of the human spirit that is capable of great power and passion.

As the storm intensifies, the speaker becomes more and more enraptured by its beauty. He describes the "lightning's zigzag" and the "rain's cool slant" as if they are works of art that he is admiring. The use of sensory imagery, such as the "smell of the rain" and the "taste of the salt" in the air, adds a visceral quality to the poem that makes the reader feel as if they are experiencing the storm alongside the speaker.

The storm also has a transformative effect on the speaker. He describes how the storm "cleanses" and "purifies" his soul, as if the storm is a cathartic experience that washes away all of his troubles and worries. The storm is not just a beautiful spectacle, but a spiritual experience that connects the speaker to something greater than himself.

The poem also contains several literary devices that add depth and complexity to the poem. The use of repetition, such as the repeated use of the word "proud" in the title and throughout the poem, creates a sense of emphasis and importance. The use of alliteration, such as the repeated use of the "s" sound in "soul," "symphony," and "storm," adds a musical quality to the poem that reinforces the theme of music and the storm.

The poem also contains several metaphors that add layers of meaning to the poem. The storm is compared to a "mighty orchestra" and a "soul," which reinforces the idea that the storm is not just a natural phenomenon, but a work of art and a symbol of the human spirit. The storm is also compared to a "cleansing bath," which reinforces the idea that the storm is a spiritual experience that purifies the soul.

The overall message of the poem is one of awe and wonder at the beauty and power of nature. The storm is not just a destructive force, but a work of art that inspires the human spirit. The storm is a reminder that there is something greater than ourselves, something that we can connect with and be transformed by.

In conclusion, "Proud Music Of The Storm" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of a storm and its impact on the human soul. The use of musical imagery, personification, and sensory imagery creates a vivid and visceral experience for the reader. The poem is a celebration of the beauty and power of nature, and a reminder that there is something greater than ourselves that we can connect with and be transformed by. Walt Whitman's legacy as a poet is secure, and "Proud Music Of The Storm" is a shining example of his unique style and vision.

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