Walt Whitman: “To a Locomotive in winter” Essay

Walt Whitman: “To a Locomotive in winter” Essay.



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“To a Locomotive in winter” by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman is one of the renowned writers of the period after Romanticism, but before Modernism. Some of the most famous works by Walt include “O Magnet South,” and “The Dalliance of the Eagles,” both of which describe the beauty and fascination that Walt had about nature. Walt also scripted the poem “To a Locomotive in winter”, which is a true thriller and a combination of both an imagination and a prediction of the future. Throughout his works, defiance to the conventional style of the romantic period is evident from his choice of words. This paper seeks to discuss the style and themes in the poem “To a Locomotive in winter” together with the significance it plays in contemporary poetry.

In the poem, Walt introduces freedom of diction, which defies the traditional styles of rhyme and rhetoric that writers of his time used. The poem is wrapped up in a combination of words without a clearly employing the art of meter. The conspicuity of Walt’s choice of words trails all the way from the first line of the poem to the last line and the writer stylistically refers to the locomotive as a “Type of the modern”. His symbolic descriptions enable the reader to create a mental picture of the structures of the future that Walt describes in this sonnet. The expressivity of Walt in the poem depicts his demystification with “the machine”, for which he shows an overwhelming curiosity to describe with admiration (Whitman, 1942). Through this, Walt creates a template that could serve as a reference tool for a masterpiece poem with rich vocabulary.

Walt presents the locomotive as an embodiment of the strength of the American advancements that existed in the period of 1870s. His expressions of the capabilities of the locomotive to roar roll and chant indicate the capabilities and potential that the locomotive possesses within itself. This bold description of the locomotive as a scientific invention shows the poets attitude and support for technology. To the poet, the sound of the locomotive is musical and seams to create no conflict with the surrounding with its “roar”. In fact, Walt uses the word “recitative” to imply that the harmony that exists as the locomotive functions.

Themes depicted in the poem include strength, conquest and resilience. The locomotive moves despite there being snow. The fact that the locomotive is able to slug through the terrain leaving cars behind in the midst of a looming snowstorm shows the qualities of strength and resilience. Such themes are applicable in daily living by exhibition of boldness and hope when handling situations. Walt regards the machine with great esteem with the hope that it will propel America to great achievements in the future. This a depiction of hope.

The significance of this poem and many others to poetry and literature in general is huge. This poem helped in the expansion of diction in poetry and introduced a new concept of freedom of word choice. Even today, some of the words that Walt used in his works and in this poem form part of the vocabulary employed in poetry. Walt’s works opened a new era of poetic expression that comes with merging of words to depict strong adoration for objects (Whitman, 1942). .

In conclusion, Walt’s poem “To a Locomotive in winter” is a true masterpiece that combines both literary styles and a strong diction to bring out the admiration of the poet. The themes of hope for future, strength and admiration are evident from the poem. The poem contributed largely in expanding writing styles in poetry and also added to the reservoir of words that poets can use for expression


Whitman, W. (1942). The selected poems of Walt Whitman. New York: W.J. Black Publishers

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