Walt Whitman

A Woman Waits for Me by Walt Whitman

Formerly known as ‘Poem of Procreation,’ Whitman’s ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ is all about the power of regeneration, procreation, and creativity.

‘A Woman Waits for Me’ appears as the fourth poem of the section entitled “Children of Adam,” published in Walt Whitman’s best-loved book of poetry, Leaves of Grass. This poem is written from the perspective of a “perfect” male speaker like Adam, expressing his desire to procreate with the women, who truly love him. Whitman’s formidable figure declares how he wants to see the future and how his children should be. This poem explores the themes of perfection, manhood, and the glorification of women.

A Woman Waits for Me
Walt Whitman

A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking.

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow'd persons of the earth,
These are contain'd in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself.

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that are warm-blooded and sufficient for me,
I see that they understand me and do not deny me,
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of those women.

They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right—they are calm, clear, well-possess'd of themselves.

I draw you close to me, you women,
I cannot let you go, I would do you good,
I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others' sakes,
Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

It is I, you women, I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I press with slow rude muscle,
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me.

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers,
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you interpenetrate now,
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death, immortality, I plant so lovingly now.
A Woman Waits for Me by Walt Whitman


Summary

‘A Woman Waits for Me’ by Walt Whitman describes how to forge the ideal relationship out of which the perfect offspring is born.

This Whitman poem is not merely about the act of procreation itself. Rather it is about the act of creation, particularly the way a perfect child is born, nurtured, and guided. The poem begins with a speaker describing how a perfect woman without lacking anything waits for him. Then he goes on to describe the act of sex and how it is all-inclusive. He particularly waits for the women who are passionate, “warm-blooded,” and “sufficient” for him. They are the ones who could bear the children of the future and nurture the qualities of the speaker within them. His creative energy is what he intends to plant in the hearts of the women who wait for none other than him.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-10

A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,

Yet all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the right man were lacking.

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,

Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,

Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk,

All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,

All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,

These are contain’d in sex as parts of itself and justifications of itself.

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,

Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

In the first two lines of ‘A Woman Waits for Me,’ the first-person speaker (Whitman’s persona) describes a perfect woman who does not lack anything at all. According to him, if she lacks “sex,” he cannot regard the woman as perfect as he cannot a man if he lacked the “moisture.” The “moisture” is a metaphor for creative energy.

In the following lines, the speaker describes the all-inclusive nature of the act of “sex.” Sex is not an act of momentary pleasure only. For him, it is the essence of everything starting from human bodies to the delights of earth. One who understands it can decode the meaning of everything on earth. Each human action and emotion is part and justification of sex itself. Thus, it is a divine act that does not limit one to the body but expands their horizon.

Those who are liked by the speaker, know the importance of sex. Thus, they have no shame to admit the “deliciousness” of their sexes.

Lines 11-19

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,

I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that are warm-blooded and sufficient for me,

I see that they understand me and do not deny me,

I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of those women.

They are not one jot less than I am,

They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,

Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,

They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,

They are ultimate in their own right—they are calm, clear, well-possess’d of themselves.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker straightforwardly distances himself from the women who frown at the sound of the word. According to him, they are “impassive women.” He prefers staying with the woman who waits for him. He does not limit himself to one individual but welcomes all the women, who are passionate and complete, with open arms. They understand him and don’t deny him. He wants to be the husband of those who understands his “worth.” In this way, the speaker projects himself as an Adam-like figure.

In the next lines, he clarifies how he is not greater than the woman he wants to be with. They are not lesser or greater than him. He goes on to describe their looks that greatly differ from the conventional description of women. Their faces are tanned by the “shining suns” and “blowing winds.” It means they are hardworking and stern. Besides, they possess the skills that are conventionally performed by men, such as rowing, wrestling, horse-riding, and fighting in a war. Above all, they know how to defend themselves. They don’t require the protection of men or the speaker as “They are ultimate in their own right.”

Lines 20-30

I draw you close to me, you women,

I cannot let you go, I would do you good,

I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others’ sakes,

Envelop’d in you sleep greater heroes and bards,

They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

It is I, you women, I make my way,

I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,

I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,

I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these States, I press with slow rude muscle,

I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,

I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me.

The speaker passionately draws the “calm, clear, and well-possess’d” women closer and does not want to let them go. He assures them that he would do only good. In the line, “I am for you, and you are for me,” Whitman presents his egalitarian view of both sexes. His persona prefers an equal relationship not for their own sake, but for others. Thus, the act of procreation is a humanitarian task for him.

He glorifies women by saying that the seeds of greater heroes and bards lay dormant within them. The seeds will only germinate by the touch of the speaker. It means a perfect relationship can produce the perfect offspring if the individuals possess equal intellect and passion.

In the following stanza, the speaker emphasizes the term “I” in order to highlight that he is the perfect one for them. He jots down his features that are both pleasant and disagreeable and expresses his love for them. In the following lines, the speaker uses the imagery of lovemaking in order to describe how a man deposits what is accumulated within a woman. On a literal level, these lines are, indeed, filled with passion, but the connotation takes one further to the act of spiritual communication.

Lines 31-39

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,

In you I wrap a thousand onward years,

On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,

The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers,

The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,

I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,

I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you interpenetrate now,

I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,

I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death, immortality, I plant so lovingly now.

The “pent-up rivers” is an implicit reference to the “seminal milk” accumulated within the speaker. Metaphorically, the rivers stand for creative energy and experience. The speaker does not make love with the woman for the sake of producing offspring, but for implanting his long accumulated experience in the future generation.

The speaker is sure of the fact that the “drops” of his experience shall grow into “fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers.” He wishes his future generation would do the same and play their part well when their time arrives. Moreover, he is optimistic about the “fruits” of his creative energy. Whitman’s “loving crops” that he plants through his poetry will be imperishable.

Structure and Form

The poem ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ is written in free-verse without any regular rhyming pattern or meter. This piece contains Whitman’s trademark long lines divided into eight stanzas. Each stanza does not contain the same number of lines. The first and third stanzas contain only two lines and the longest last stanza has nine lines. Whitman writes the poem from the point of view of a first-person speaker. He creates rhyming between the lines by repeating the same words and the same consonant or vowel sounds.

Literary Devices

In ‘A Woman Waits for Me,’ readers can find the use of the following literary devices:

  • Metaphor: In the second line, Whitman uses a metaphor, “the moisture of the right man,” to imply the creative energy residing within individuals. Overall, Whitman uses an extended metaphor in order to describe how sex is nothing other than an act of generation/creation.
  • Asyndeton: Throughout the second stanza, the poet does not use a single “and.” The terms are separated by commas creating a short-lived pause and forcing one to continue until the end.
  • Anaphora: This device is scattered in the text. For instance, it occurs in the sixth and seventh lines that start with the word “All.” Similarly, lines 9-10, 12-14, 15-19, etc., begin with the same words.
  • Alliteration: This device is used to create internal rhymings while reading the lines. For instance, there is a recurrence of the “p” sound in “proofs, purities.” The “b” sound is repeated in “benefactions, bestowals.”
  • Repetition: In the first two lines of the poem, there is a repetition of the word “lacking” for the sake of emphasis.


FAQs

What is the meaning of the poem ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ by Walt Whitman?

Whitman’s ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ is a metaphorical poem about the act of procreation. Through this piece, Whitman explores how the interpenetration of equal souls produces the perfect offspring by drawing on the imagery of lovemaking. Though there are explicit references, this poem is all about the act itself. It dives deeper into the art of disseminating one’s experience and creative energy to the future generation.

What is the theme of ‘A Woman Waits for Me’?

This poem contains a number of important themes that are not only limited to procreation. It includes the themes of perfection, creativity, femininity, and manhood. The poem conveys how the marriage of equal minds gives birth to perfect individuals.

What type of poem is ‘A Woman Waits for Me’?

It is a free-verse poem that does not have a regular rhyme scheme or meter. There are a total of eight stanzas with unequal line lengths. The poem is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker who is none other than the poet Walt Whitman himself.

When was the poem ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ published?

The poem was first published under the title ‘Poem of Procreation’ in the 1856 version of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. It appeared in the “Enfans d’Adam” section. In the later versions of Leaves of Grass, the section was renamed “Children of Adam.” The poem’s title was changed to ‘A Woman Waits for Me.’


Similar Poetry

The themes explored in Whitman’s ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ can also be found in the following poems. You can also explore more Walt Whitman poems.

You can also explore these best-loved poems by Walt Whitman.

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A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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