"A Woman Waits for Me" is a poem written by Walt Whitman. It was originally published with the title "Poem of Procreation" in 1856.
This poem is written in free verse. Though there is occasional repetition of sounds and words, there is no set rhyme scheme. However, this does not mean the poem is not lyrical when read.
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.
From the first two lines in the poem, it is evident the poem will be of a sexual nature. The reader can perceive the sexual union between the man and woman described is intense. The speaker describing the woman as containing all shows this, though it is contingent on sexual union. The following line, "Sex contains all," further establishes this viewpoint.
Bodies, Souls, meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk;
Through a list of values, items, people, and happenings, the speaker manages to demonstrate how sex truly encompasses everything. Through this union, everything becomes connected. And the woman holds the key to this magnificent interconnectedness, as professed in the first two lines.
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.
The list continues on to include ideas and even types of people and objects. Furthermore, it goes so far as to mentions gods in the list. It does not matter who or what you are, all unites to become one through sex.
Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex,
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.
The idea put forth in these two lines, that man and woman are not and should not be ashamed in their sex, is strengthened by the earlier lines put forth. The notion that sex brings everything together in an organic manner indicates there is no reason to find it shameful.
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;
Though it could be argued this stanza hints at a purely sexual objectification of women, the counter-argument could be made that it demonstrates a pure longing for what has been described. The words prior to this stanza are those of a natural, sexual union that weaves everything and everyone together. Furthermore, these lines show a want for emotion and understanding. This is clear by the speaker’s claim of staying away from women lacking feeling or display of emotion.
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.
The poem begins by stating the woman contains all and lacks nothing. This means the woman is the foundation for everything, so that very notion is propagated through the desire for sex. The following line, "They are not one jot less than I am," substantiates the opinion that the speaker is not merely objectifying the woman.
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.
This stanza covers a wide descriptive range of women, from physical beauty and ability to their mental capacity. This is, again, a means to exhibit how women truly do contain all. In this stanza, it is even asserted through different words that women lack nothing when it is stated, "They are ultimate in their own right."
I draw you close to me, you women!
Once again, through this single line, the speaker demonstrates the want of closeness. In this instance, that intimacy is to be achieved through sex and sharing of emotion.
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.
Perhaps one of the most striking lines in this stanza is, "I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others’ sake." The reason this line is so striking is that, enveloped in it, there is the core idea expressed of unity. Everyone and everything comes together and, in doing so, belongs to one another.
It is I, you women—I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable—but I love you,
Here, the description of men is coarse, crude, and much lower than the earlier one of women. This continues on the vein of women lacking nothing. These two lines also demonstrate the man will persist in his yearning until it is fulfilled.
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
This line insinuates the man may not be entirely gentle but he will not take liberties on how he treats his mate. Perhaps he considers sex some kind of physical, mental, or emotional distress for women. In any case, he does not wish to hurt women "any more than is necessary." This may also be linked to childbirth, as the following stanzas speak of impregnation.
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.
However, the union is pushed forward with the indication of fertilization. Though the man may be rough, he has the ability and desire to produce children with the woman. The speaker gives a description of the intercourse followed by a statement that he is successful. The success here is not merely sex, but producing children. In other words, the man is sure he is fertile.
Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
These two lines are purely about the man spilling his seed and continuing his bloodline.
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,
Not only is the speaker confident in his ability to produce children, he is sure they will grow up strong, creative, and intelligent. This continues with the idea that this sexual union is of substantial importance and yielding great results.
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,
The speaker of the poem expects his bloodline to be carried down, generation after generation. The children the woman bears with his seed will have the strength and ability to do the same. As substantiated by the concepts in the poem, it is a natural and crucial event.
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 final stanza expands on the topic of fertilization, a likely mention in a discourse on sex. However, even through this, the affirmation that women are the key to the union remains. Though the man produces the nectar, it is the woman who receives and nourishes it. It is thanks to the woman that the baby can come into being. It is because of that the connection between everything is a circular event that continues on.
This poem, by Walt Whitman, speaks of the sexual union between a man and a woman. He wrote it in great detail and on a positive note. This lends to the belief that sex truly ties everything and everyone together, bringing harmony and happiness. The poem culminates in fertilization, much like lovemaking itself, to lead to the having of children. This will continue the cycle of life.
The themes explored in this poem all tie together well, strengthening that one of connection. The themes at work here to bring it all together are passion, desire, unity, and life.