I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband–I see the treacherous seducer
of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be
hid–I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny–I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea–I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these–All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look
See, hear, and am silent. 10
Short Poem Analysis
"I Sit and Look Out" by Walt Whitman is a contemplative and introspective poem that offers a critical examination of human nature and society. Through its somber tone, vivid imagery, and moral reflection, the poem delves into the contradictions and complexities of human behavior.
The poem begins with the speaker observing the world from a position of detachment and contemplation. The act of "sitting and looking out" suggests a sense of distance and introspection, allowing the speaker to reflect on the actions and behaviors of humanity.
Whitman uses stark and often disturbing imagery to depict various aspects of human behavior. He describes "each young sinewy arm" and "the prostitute's plight" as well as "the suicide's dead face" and "the deformed persons." These vivid descriptions capture both the beauty and ugliness, the joy and suffering, present in the human experience.
The repetition of the phrase "I sit and look out" throughout the poem creates a rhythmic and meditative quality, underscoring the speaker's role as an observer and commentator on the world's complexities.
The poem's tone is one of somber reflection and moral concern. The speaker's observations lead to a sense of disillusionment with human actions, suggesting that the world is filled with both admirable and deeply troubling qualities.
"I Sit and Look Out" is a poignant exploration of the duality of human nature and the contradictory aspects of society. It invites readers to consider the responsibility of observing and acknowledging the full spectrum of human behavior, including its flaws and injustices. The poem's contemplative tone and evocative imagery prompt reflection on the collective human experience, raising questions about accountability, empathy, and the potential for positive change in the face of the world's complexities.