From "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d" by Walt Whitman:

To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

  1. What is the meaning of "tally"? Does it mean "correspondence" or "agreement"?

  2. What does Whitman mean by two last lines? Can anyone explain these two lines?


1 Answer 1


To the tally of my soul

A tally is indeed a state of correspondence or agreement, but still a question remains: What's the tally of a soul? In other words: What does the soul of the narrator corresponds to?

The answer is found earlier in the poem:

And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.

And again at the last strophe:

The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul

So now we know: The poet's spirit corresponds to, or: echoes, reflects, the bird's song in acknowledging the meaning of death, which is the main theme of the poem.

This theme is related to the other lines you asked about:

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

These two lines convey a dream-like, or maybe propehtic-like, experience of the poet: To this point, his eyes were bound, imprisoned, but suddenly they're unclosed, opened for distinguished sights:

I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not

This vision is a tactile expression of what until these lines was only sung (by the bird, or the soul), but now can actually be seen.

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