Song of Myself, XI Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.Which of the young men does she like the best?Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather,The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,Little streams pass’d over their bodies.An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,It descended trembling from their temples and ribs.The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,They do not know who puffs and declines with the pendant and bending arch,They do not think whom they souse with spray
What does this episode imply about the sexual differences between men and women?Do you think these implications are valid?
How can the woman splash in the water and also “stay stock still” in her room?
What is the sexual implication of the phrase “souse with spray”? What other sexually charged language is there in these lines?
Why does the woman hide “handsome and richly drest” behind the window blinds? What sort of life do you think she leads?