Song of Myself: a close reading

Reading Lawrence Kramer’s absurd and occasionally offensive essay ‘Opera: Two or Three Things I Know About Her’, published in Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera (Princeton, 2000), has prompted me to perform an analysis of a portion of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.

The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies

(line 604)

The line’s inherent homosexuality is apparent enough without further probing – this is poetry, after all – but let us inspect it more closely.

Anagram of het, short for ‘heterosexual’. A double bluff.

The symphony orchestra of the late nineteenth century customarily contained several horns, an instrument heavy with sexual symbolism. The word orchestra is also an anagram of carthorse, the animal with the biggest dick of all. Hardly a coincidence.

The flamboyant gyratory motion beloved of the effeminate man.

First-person object pronoun. The presence of this word is indicative of the narcissism of the male homosexual. See also the rest of the poem.

Like an anus.

Conjunction. Doesn’t really mean anything. The word is employed here purely for purposes of misdirection.

This anticipates the use of ‘uranism’ as a synonym for male homosexuality. The first citation of the word in this sense given by OED dates from 1893, the year after Whitman’s death, which identifies him unambiguously as its progenitor. Uranus, I note, can also be pronounced to sound like your anus. The rudest planet (ahead of Venus).

The symbolic gateway to the phallus. The juxtaposition of flies (front entrance) with Uranus (back entrance) provides a striking example of the weaselly obfuscation typical of this pervert.

Turning to the author’s name, Whitman is the demotic (ebonic) pronunciation of ‘with man’, the idealised state aspired to by the author, while Walt is an all too obvious rearrangement of Tal-W, the common abbreviation of ‘tallywhacker’, a popular vernacular term for the phallus.

Overall, I enjoyed the poem. 8/10


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