Come, said My Soul

Walt Whitman

‘Come, said My Soul’ by Walt Whitman expresses a poetic desire to intimately entwine one’s identity, body and soul, with their art.


Walt Whitman

Nationality: American

Walt Whitman is known as the father of free verse poetry.

His deeply emotional, spiritual, and nature-based poems appeal to poetry lovers around the world.

Key Poem Information

Unlock more with Poetry+

Central Message: To write poetry that is imbued with your very soul

Speaker: Walt Whitman

Emotions Evoked: Hope, Joyfulness, Passion

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 19th Century

Walt Whitman's poem gives voice to his passionate pursuit of poetry that transcends the barriers of mortality and time, uniting people's souls and bodies whenever it is read.

‘Come, said My Soul’ appears as an epigraph within certain editions of Walt Whitman’s seminal poetry collection ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Serving as a brief introduction to both the poet’s vivacious voice and intimately-minded imagery. But it also reveals an innermost hope for the lines of verse he writes. One that is grounded in the belief that poetry imbued with one’s spirit can transcend death, soothing the sorrow and reinvigorating the revelries of people we will never meet.

Come, said My Soul
Walt Whitman

Come, said my SoulSuch verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)That should I after death invisibly return,Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,There to some group of mates the chants resuming,(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)Ever with pleas’d smiles I may keep on,Ever and ever yet the verses owning — as, first, I here and now,Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,Walt Whitman


‘Come, said My Soul’ by Walt Whitman expresses an earnest desire to write altruistic poetry that will outlast one’s life.

‘Come, said My Soul’ begins with the speaker being addressed by their soul, enlisting them to write poetry that will also entangle their body. They also mention that both their soul and body, though addressed separately, are unified. The reason for writing “such verses” is owed to the possibility that they might “invisibly return” after they die, perhaps amongst a “group of mates” chanting the speaker’s verses. Another parenthetical aside catalogs some elements found within the poem: “Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves.”

Watching the friends sing their poetry imbues the speaker with “pleas’d smiles” because they echo the ideals of the “long, long” dead poet. The poem ends with the speaker “signing” for the verses with the “soul and body” of their creator, Walt Whitman.

Structure and Form

‘Come, said My Soul’ is written in free verse and, as a result, lacks any formal rhyme scheme or meter. Instead, Whitman uses a variety of devices like caesura and repetition to create a cadence around the poem’s imagery.

Literary Devices

‘Come, said My Soul’ uses a variety of literary devices, which include but are not limited to:

  • Auditory Imagery: “There to some group of mates the chants resuming” (5) mentions the sound of these friends reciting the speaker’s poems.
  • Visual Imagery: “Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves” (6) conjures up sights of nature.
  • Personification: “Come, said my Soul” (1) personifies the speaker’s soul as an entity that speaks to them directly, as another person might.
  • Oxymoron: a seemingly contradictory statement such as “invisibly return” (3).
  • Anaphora: The repetition of the beginning of a line, as in the lines, “Ever with pleas’d smiles I may keep on, / Ever and ever yet the verses owning” (7-8).

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-6

Come, said my Soul
Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
That should I after death invisibly return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)

‘Come, said My Soul’ opens with the speaker being beckoned by their soul. Which is personified as being paradoxically distinct but unified with their body: “(for we are one,)” (2). The speaker’s soul then reveals its desire to write “such verses for [their] Body” (2) that they survive their physical death.

How might poetry grant such immortality? Through its recitation. The speaker “invisibly return[s]” (3) in spirit when a “group of mates” (4) start chanting their verses. The parenthetical line also catalogs some of the lush imagery of nature commonly found in Whitman’s poems, offering a glimpse into the contents of the poem being read by the group.

Lines 7-10

Ever with pleas’d smiles I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning — as, first, I here and now,
Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,
Walt Whitman

In the next sequence of lines from ‘Come, said My Soul,’ the speaker reflects on being resurrected in spirit by the chanting group of friends. Using anaphora, Whitman emphasizes the perpetual happiness it brings them to see their words appreciated: “with pleas’d smiles I may keep on” (7).

But another enduring feature is the verses’ ownership over their creator. This inversion of authority underscores the speaker’s desire that their words — not themselves — will be remembered. Yet it also implies that the speaker has devoted their body and soul to writing these verses. As a result, they are synonymous with their identity, so much so that even those who do not realize they are reading the words of one Walt Whitman will have met him all the same.


What is the theme of ‘Come, said My Soul?

The poem’s theme is a desire to invest oneself so sufficiently with their art that anyone who ever engages with it also intimately interacts with a part of you. In this way, Whitman reveals the way poetry can transcend the limitation of our mortal bodies by tapping into the immortality of soul-infused words.

Why did Walt Whitman write ‘Come, said My Soul?

One of Whitman’s beliefs as a Transcendentalist was in the immortality of the human soul. In the poem, the speaker’s soul returns whenever their poetry is read and appreciated.

What does the speaker mean by “other spheres” in the poem?

One interpretation of this ambiguous piece of imagery is that the speaker is referring to social circles or worlds they are not a part of. This is because they are “long, long” dead. The group of friends that the speaker mentions are an example of the “other spheres” that might interact with their poetry, circulating it amongst one another.

Why does the speaker sign “for Soul and Body” in the poem?

The “signing for Soul and Body” functions as a literary signature by the speaker and author of the poem. The image emphasizes the speaker’s enduring presence within the lines of verse they’ve written.

Similar Poems

Here are a few more poems by Walt Whitman worth exploring:

Poetry+ Review Corner

Come, said My Soul

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Walt Whitman

This poem by Walt Whitman reveals to the reader the poet's hopes and desires for his poetry. Uninterested in fame or glory, he instead looks forward to the day that his spirit is conjured up by some strangers who stumble upon his verse. In doing so, he underscores the poet's mission to connect people through their words.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

19th Century

Walt Whitman was part of the American Transcendentalist movement, which reached its height in the 19th century. His poetry is characterized by its free verse, vivid sensory detail, and passionate love for all living things. Poems like this one also reveal his belief that poetry could transcend time and death, linking together people on emotion alone.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


As a celebrated member of the Transcendental movement in the United States, Whitman's poems possess an important literary legacy. His pioneering verse sought to wrangle all the disparate elements of the nation into something proud and grandiose. In this poem, he expresses a powerful wish that his writings will one day be enjoyed by future generations.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


As is often the case with many of Walt Whitman's poems, this one touches on a theme of celebration. This theme is visualized through the imagery of the group of friends reading one of the speaker's (i.e., Whitman's) poems. Their shared revelry is a homage to the power of his verse and the emotional passion he poured into it.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


A theme in Walt Whitman's poem is identity. According to the speaker, the goal of their soul is to write a poem so fully ingrained in who they are that not even death will erase their memory. This is why the speaker "signs" the poem with their name, as it illustrates that everything they write is a fragment of who they are.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Walt Whitman's poem touches on the theme of immortality, which is granted to the speaker as a result of their art. Even though they've been long dead, all it takes for their identity and soul to be resurrected is for someone to read their poetry. Asserting that those who write such poetry and touch others with it attain a certain longevity.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Walt Whitman's poem hinges on the hope that the speaker will write a poem that will be enjoyed ages afterward. One that is imbued with every aspect of their identity — both soul and body — so that when people come across it the effect is similar to meeting its author, like many of the things he espouses in his work, the poet's desire is lofty but admirable.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Another emotion inspired and found within Walt Whitman's poem is this ecstatic joyfulness. This appears in two different ways in the poem. The first is the speaker's interaction with their soul, which enlists them to write a poem that will be synonymous with their identity. The second is when the speaker imagines being resurrected by a group of friends reading their poetry.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


It wouldn't be a Walt Whitman poem if there were no powerful expressions of passion to be found within it. Few poets describe such ecstatic emotion as he does, his both concise and vivid imagery that imparts such precise feeling. In this poem, that passion emerges as a desire to write something truly lasting and true to oneself.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


One of the topics that Walt Whitman's poem touches on is the constraints of human mortality. As a transcendentalist, the poet's view of death is not paralyzed by fear or worry over the afterlife. Instead, he understood that one day he'd die, and the poem offers a rather pragmatic though lofty hope for his words to carry his memory.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Walt Whitman's poem also deals with perseverance, especially in regard to the memory of someone who has died. The speaker expresses a desire to leave some of themselves behind in their poetry so as to persist in the world even after they've passed away. There's also the perseverance of the poetic spirit, as the group of friends represents a new generation of poetry appreciators.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Many of Walt Whitman's poems thin the barriers between speaker and author. This one does so rather emphatically when the speaker signs their name as "Walt Whitman." As a result, the poem unfolds as this expression of a desire held by many poets. One that revolves around the longevity of their words and memory long after they've died.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


A topic this poem by Walt Whitman explores is the soul. It is this abstract and personified spirit that addresses the speaker throughout the poem, urging them to write something that will outlast them. But it will also be so synonymous with their identity that when it is read or appreciated, it will have the effect of breathing existence back into them.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

Free Verse

Walt Whitman was famous for his eccentric use of free verse, which he used because it epitomized the cadence of everyday language. But it also lent the poet greater control over creating his own rhythm, as well as juggling a variety of different images. The presence of caesura and cataloging throughout the poem spotlights that rhythm.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+
Steven Ward Poetry Expert
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question? Ask an expert.x

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?

Share to...