Thomas S. Merrill: On "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman"

Clothes are not only a hindrance to lovemaking; they are the garment of illusion with which men shamefully hide their humanity.  Mind, too often, is the grim tailor, which appears to be one of the underlying themes of "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman."  In this poem, the poet shares the nuptial bed of "the bridegroom and the bride" of humanity whose "bodies fallen from heaven stretched out waiting naked and restless" are open to his physical visitation.  As he buries his face "in their shoulders and breasts, breathing their skin . . . bodies locked shuddering naked, hot lips and buttocks screwed into each other," he hears the "bride cry for forgiveness" and the groom "covered with tears of passion and compassion."  What is described so sensually is an orgasm of community--a nude coming together of primal human hearts from which the poet rises "up from the bed replenished with last intimate gestures and kisses of farewell."

The graphic extremity to which the erotic description takes one is an all-out blitzkrieg against shame.  The bed is a possible world of contracted time and space--the identical bed threatened by the "busy old fool, unruly Sunne" that John Donne so beautifully has celebrated.  In Ginsberg's poem, however, it is not the "Sunne" which is the intruding landlady of this secret tryst, but the mind.  Once again, the "cold touch of philosophy" withers primordial love.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Thomas S. Merrill: On "Love Poem on a Theme by Whitman" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Thomas S. Merrill Criticism Target Allen Ginsberg
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 15 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Allen Ginsberg
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