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On "As Adam Early in the Morning"

M. Jimmie Killingsworth

The speaker’s encouraging disposition . . . seems addressed to a female audience of unwilling participants in sexual activity: "Touch me," commands the Adamic figure in ["As Adam Early in the Morning"], "touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass, / Be not afraid of my body." The appeal has shifted significantly since 1855, when the poet urged women and men to accept their own bodies and to find in that acceptance an avenue by which to admit others into communion with them. In ["As Adam"], the rhetoric pleads for an acceptance of the male body and of the poet’s "body," his poems—which, moreover, must stand on their own merits, not on their identification with the needs of the reader, here defined not by a sympathetic union with the speaker but on the basis of a difference from the speaker. The poet seems able no longer to assert confidently that "every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

from Whitman’s Poetry of the Body (U of North Carolina P, 1989), 113-114.

Tenney Nathanson

[The] de facto conflation of voice with silent presence in the very passages that draw out attention to the supposed difference between them is responsible for some of our more spectacularly sublime encounters with the poet. . . . "As Adam Early in the Morning" provokes a shiver by commanding us to look on and touch a body we cannot see or get hold of. . . . Here body and voice are metonymically associated but also explicitly distinguished. Yet the body we are directed to behold and touch is present only in the accents of these words; in this uncanny moment we put our hands, as it were, to a voice, registering the magical presence voice implies.

from Whitman’s Presence (New York UP, 1992), 152.

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