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Miracles By Walt Whitman

Summary: For ages, people have had differing opinions about miracles. Did miracles really happen or the universe is the product of a chance? Across all cultures, peoples, and time periods, there have been stories of miracles. According to the general view, miracles are hard to believe and can’t be explained on scientific grounds. But Whitman claims that he has never known anything other than miracles.

Whitman testifies in the poem, ‘Miracles’ that we have been surrounded by the miracles all over. The poet finds miracles in the streets of Manhattan and over the roofs of houses. He finds it amazing what men have had the intelligence to build. He reveals that he sees the sky and the beach as miracles. He also believes that his ability to enjoy them is in itself a miracle. He also claims that his ability to feel love for another person is a miracle. He believes that what mankind has created, nature and human emotion are all miracles.

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Next, the poet veers back to nature, including the sights of animals feeding, bees buzzing around a hive, and birds and insects roaming the air. He then goes on to describe the beauty of a sun setting, the stars, the moon, the surface of the earth, the space, the oceanic worlds, the waves, the ships, concluding that every cubic inch of the space is full of miracles.

Whitman mentions three particular parts of nature in each section of this poem: humans, animals, and nature. When he mentions dining together, he again alludes to the miracle of human emotion and his ability to love another human being. When he mentions insects, particularly honey-bees, he alludes to that which is the very sustenance of life, which he finds miraculous. Everything that is alive and breathing is a miracle to him, and the beauty and majesty of the stars shining in the heavens is yet another miraculous mystery.

When the poet is finished with his descriptions, he expresses his belief that all of creation- every inch of the space speaks of the Mighty Creator and is, therefore, a miracle. He testifies that each of these things is, in its own way, a miracle to him, like the way that day, night, space, and time seem to work together in harmony. He ends with the question, ”What stranger miracles are there?’

Questions and Answers of Miracles

Q.1 The usual view of miracle is that it seldom happens. What does Walt Whitman think about miracles?

Answer. To Whitman, miracles do happen all the time, in every cubic-inch of the space.

He draws out the theme of miracles from every-day life. To him, human affection is a miracle, the setting of the sun, the rising of the moon and the shining of the stars are miracles. A thing of joy and all the man-made and natural wonders are miracles to the poet.

Q.2 When you read the poem, you notice that some miracles are from nature, others are connected with people and city-life. Make lists of these. Notice how Whitman moves from one to another.

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Answer. It is evident from the poem that Whitman’s notion of miracles revolves around three particular components of nature: humans, animals, and nature. He sees miracles in the streets of Manhattan. He is amazed by the architecture of men. When he mentions dining together he alludes to the miracle of human emotion and ability to love another human being. When he mentions insects, particularly honey-bees, he alludes to that which is the very sustenance of life, which he finds miraculous. He wonders about the oceanic worlds. Everything that is alive and breathing is a miracle to him, and the beauty and majesty of the sun, the moon and the stars shining in the heavens is yet another miraculous mystery.

Q.3 What do the lines about Manhattan and the subway car tell us about Whitman’s feeling for people?

Answer. The lines reflect the humanist attitude of the poet’s personality. The poet loves people from all walks of life, belonging to the different social strata. The poet seems to be void of any prejudice regarding any creed or culture. He finds as many miracles in the streets of Manhattan as he finds in the lap of nature. The massive structures of the Manhattan buildings are wonderful miracles for him. People dining with him and the strangers opposite him in the subway in the cars are all miracles. All these things suggest that Whitman is a pure humanist by heart.

Q.5 What are the images used by the poet?

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Answer. Imagery: Imagery is the use of figurative language to describe objects, actions and ideas in a way that appeals to our physical senses. Typically, imagery is thought to make use of specific words that create a visual picture of ideas in our minds. The term “imagery” is synonymous with mental pictures. Nonetheless, this concept is only partly right. Imagery, to be honest, turns out to be more complex than just a picture.

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Read the following examples of imagery carefully:

It was dark and dim in the forest.

The words “dark” and “dim” are visual images.

  • The children were shouting and crying in the fields.
  • “shouting” and “crying” appeal to our sense of hearing, or auditory sense.
  • The girl rubs her hands on a soft satin fabric.
  • In this example, the idea of “soft” appeals to our sense of touch or tactile sense.

The images used by the poet are:

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1) wading with naked feet along the beach.
2) walking through the streets of Manhattan.

3) looking at strangers opposite in a car.

4) dining with friends.

5) animals feeding in the fields.

6) setting of the sun.

7) rising of the new moon and shining of stars.

8) honey bees surrounding a hive.

9) the sailing ships.

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