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Song of the Broad-Axe


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Walt Whitman (1819—1892) American poet

 

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Poem by Whitman, published in Leaves of Grass (1856) as “Broad-Axe Poem,” and given its present title in 1867.

The “weapon, shapely, naked, wan,” is traced from the extraction of the rough ore from the earth to its shaping for the utilitarian purposes to which it has been put in different periods of history. The use of the axe by American pioneers, firemen, shipbuilders, carpenters, and butchers is contrasted with its use in foreign countries at earlier periods by sacrificial priests, warriors, and executioners. Thus it becomes symbolic of the freedom of democracy, contrasted with the restrictions of autocratic rule.

Subjects: Literature.


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