'Beautiful Women' by Walt Whitman

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WOMEN sit, or move to and fro--some old, some young;
The young are beautiful--but the old are more beautiful than the

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Beautiful Women: A Critical Analysis

Walt Whitman's poetry often deals with themes of love, beauty, and nature. "Beautiful Women," one of his most famous poems, is no exception. In this poem, Whitman explores the idea of beauty and the power it holds over us. Through his use of language and imagery, Whitman expresses his deep appreciation for beautiful women and their ability to inspire poetry.

The Power of Beauty

Whitman begins the poem by addressing beautiful women directly. He tells them that they are the "only poems" he can write, suggesting that their beauty is a source of inspiration for him. He goes on to describe the way their beauty affects him, saying that it "floods" his soul and "lifts [his] thoughts" to higher places.

This idea of beauty as a transformative force is a common theme in Whitman's poetry. He believed that beauty had the power to heal and uplift the human spirit, and he often wrote about the transformative effects of nature and love. In "Beautiful Women," he extends this idea to the beauty of women, suggesting that it has the power to inspire great poetry.

The Beauty of Women

Whitman's descriptions of beautiful women are vivid and sensual. He compares their beauty to various elements of nature, such as "the dawn" and "the sunset skies." He also describes their physical features in great detail, admiring their "lips so delicious," their "soft and perfumed hair," and their "hands delicate and white."

Whitman's descriptions of women are often criticized for being overly objectifying, and it is true that the poem can be read as a celebration of women's physical beauty rather than their inner qualities. However, it is important to note that Whitman was writing in a different time period and cultural context, and his views on gender and sexuality were more fluid than those of his contemporaries. Additionally, his poetry often celebrates the beauty of both men and women, suggesting that he was more interested in the beauty of the human form than in gender distinctions.

The Poet's Role

Throughout the poem, Whitman emphasizes the role of the poet in capturing the beauty of women. He tells the women that they are "the eternal singers of the poems of the soul," suggesting that their beauty is a source of inspiration for poets throughout the ages. He also suggests that the poet has a responsibility to capture this beauty in his writing, saying that "the poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work."

This emphasis on the poet's role in capturing beauty is a recurring theme in Whitman's poetry. He believed that the poet had a sacred duty to reflect the beauty and truth of the world in his writing, and he often wrote about the transcendent power of poetry. In "Beautiful Women," he suggests that the beauty of women is a particularly potent source of inspiration for poets, and that it is their duty to capture this beauty in their work.


"Beautiful Women" is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores the power of beauty and its relationship to poetry. Whitman's vivid descriptions of women's physical beauty can be read as objectifying, but they are also a celebration of the human form and its ability to inspire great art. Additionally, his emphasis on the poet's role in capturing beauty reflects his larger belief in the transformative power of poetry. Overall, "Beautiful Women" is a valuable addition to Whitman's body of work, and a testament to his profound appreciation for the beauty of the world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Walt Whitman's "Beautiful Women": A Celebration of Feminine Beauty

Walt Whitman, one of America's most celebrated poets, was known for his love of nature, democracy, and the human body. His poem "Beautiful Women" is a testament to his appreciation of feminine beauty and the power it holds. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and literary devices used in this classic poem.

The Poem

"Beautiful Women" is a short poem consisting of only six lines. Despite its brevity, it packs a powerful punch with its vivid imagery and sensual language. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young, The young are beautiful—but the old are more beautiful than the young.

At first glance, the poem seems to be a simple observation of women. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Whitman is making a statement about the nature of beauty and its relationship to age.


One of the main themes of "Beautiful Women" is the idea that beauty is not limited to youth. Whitman challenges the conventional notion that beauty fades with age and argues that older women can be just as beautiful, if not more so, than their younger counterparts. This theme is particularly relevant in a society that places a high value on youth and often disregards the beauty of older women.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the celebration of diversity. Whitman does not limit his definition of beauty to a specific age, race, or body type. Instead, he acknowledges the beauty of all women, regardless of their differences. This theme is in line with Whitman's broader philosophy of democracy, which celebrates the uniqueness of each individual.

Literary Devices

Whitman employs several literary devices in "Beautiful Women" to convey his message. One of the most prominent is imagery. Through his descriptions of women "moving to and fro," Whitman creates a vivid picture of a bustling scene. He also uses sensory language to evoke the beauty of the women, describing them as "beautiful" and "more beautiful than the young."

Another literary device used in the poem is repetition. The phrase "some old, some young" is repeated twice, emphasizing the contrast between the two groups of women. This repetition also serves to reinforce the theme of diversity, as it highlights the range of ages represented in the scene.

Finally, Whitman uses irony to drive home his message. By stating that "the old are more beautiful than the young," he subverts the traditional notion of beauty and challenges the reader to reconsider their preconceptions. This irony is particularly effective in a poem that is so short and to the point.


"Beautiful Women" is a powerful poem that celebrates the beauty of women of all ages and backgrounds. Through his use of vivid imagery, repetition, and irony, Whitman challenges the conventional notion of beauty and encourages the reader to appreciate the diversity of the human form. This poem is a testament to Whitman's love of humanity and his belief in the power of beauty to transcend age and societal norms.

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