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O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless–of cities fill’d with the
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I,
and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light–of the objects mean–of the
struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all–of the plodding and sordid crowds I see
around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest–with the rest me
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O


That you are here–that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Short Poem Analysis

"O Me! O Life!" by Walt Whitman is a contemplative and introspective poem that addresses the existential questions of the purpose and meaning of life. Through its direct address to life itself, the poem reflects on the challenges and uncertainties that individuals face while seeking meaning and fulfillment in the world.

The poem's title, "O Me! O Life!" captures the speaker's urgent and earnest engagement with the fundamental questions of existence. The repetition of "O" emphasizes the emotional and philosophical weight of the inquiry.

Whitman employs vivid and contrasting imagery to illustrate the dual nature of life. He describes life as containing both "the powerful play" and "the powerful play goes on," capturing the dynamic interplay between moments of triumph and moments of struggle.

The poem's central question, "What will your verse be?" prompts reflection on the individual's contribution to the larger narrative of existence. The word "verse" refers not only to poetry but also to the metaphorical idea of one's unique impact or legacy in the world.

The poem's tone shifts from uncertainty to a sense of purpose and determination. The speaker acknowledges life's challenges and acknowledges that it can sometimes be harsh and "miserable," but ultimately expresses a resolve to contribute something meaningful to the world.

"O Me! O Life!" encourages readers to confront life's difficulties and uncertainties while recognizing the potential for individual agency and creativity. The poem speaks to the human desire to leave a mark, to find purpose amidst life's complexities, and to contribute something of value to the greater narrative of existence. Through its introspective language, the poem invites readers to consider their own roles in shaping the story of life.

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