Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"Good-Bye my Fancy!" (1891)
Author:
Wolfe, Karen
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The concluding poem of the Second Annex to the "authorized" 1891–1892 Leaves of Grass, "Good-Bye my Fancy!" was written near the end of Whitman's life and published by David McKay once before in the booklet of the same name in 1891. It also shares its name with a shorter poem early in the annex.

In eighteen lines Whitman's fancy, his poetic élan, discloses itself, becoming the guide to the aging body and the uncertain soul. This is a transition poem that redefines the relationship of the body and soul to the poetic faculty. In the first eight lines Whitman bids farewell. The length of the sentences increases as Whitman becomes despondent, and in the short middle stanza the pain of departure is measured by the intimacy of the established union. By the second line of the third stanza Whitman sees that the intensity and longevity of the relationship may allow them to "remain one." The tone becomes hopeful, the form follows the subject, and the stanza stretches into one long, complex sentence.

Halfway through the poem, at the point of separation, Whitman's fancy shows him the possibility of finding "the true songs." In "Out of the Cradle," Whitman discovers his fancy in the sea-whisper and bird's lament. "Good-Bye my Fancy!" describes a new journey of discovery, yet is still another metaphor of how corporeal life is only one aspect of the eternal. "Good-Bye my Fancy!" remains true to Whitman's earliest expressions of the relationship of the poet to his body and soul and is an appropriate conclusion to his life's work. See "Song of Myself," "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," and "Passage to India" for developments of the relationship of Whitman to his fancy.

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson, and Charles T. Davis, eds. Walt Whitman's Poems: Selections with Critical Aids. New York: New York UP, 1955.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition. Ed. Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley. New York: New York UP, 1965.


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