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Again in “Song of Myself,” he described himself as “hankering, gross, mystical, nude” and said that, like a hawk, he would sound his “barbaric yawp.” The celebration of the physical and the sexual in “I Sing the Body Electric” was indeed too barbaric for the sensibilities of many people in the nineteenth century.Even Whitman supporter Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly advised him not to include the poem (or the sexual and homoerotic “Calamus” poems) in the 1860 edition, but Whitman held to his artistic vision. A few years later, Whitman was fired from a government post after a superior read the sexual poems.
Anne, the middle child, despises the idea of someone, or something, taking the place of her mother, whose death has elicited great anger in the young girl.
The other family members, however, agree to give it a try.
The robot arrives in the form of a genial older woman whom the children name Grandma.
She can do wondrous things like speak from her hands, produce kite string from her finger, and make marbles appear in the palm of her hand. While Tom and Karen are welcoming, Anne rejects Grandma.
The poem—in the final, 1892 edition of discussed here—is composed of nine numbered sections of free verse.
The title, joyously proclaiming the poet’s intent, is also the first line of section 1, which introduces the poem.
Whitman presents his glimpses of the body almost as quick snapshots, and he is both observer and participant in the scenes and experiences.
The poem is not concerned with the intellectual question “What is beauty?
After one particularly angry outburst, Anne runs from the house.
Grandma follows and learns that Anne is angry because the death of her mother has left the child feeling betrayed.