In section 26 of "Song of Myself", Whitman wrote:

I hear the train’d soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,

Who knows the meaning of the sentence in parenthesis? (what work with hers is this?)

  • 1
    Sorry, poetry (or literary) analysis is off-topic. – Mitch Jan 28 at 21:38
  • Why? This is a simple English. And I didn't ask for analysis. I just asked for simple meaning of a simple English sentence. – Connoisseur Jan 28 at 21:42
  • It's long standing guideline that 'what does this mean?', especially poetry, lyrics, and jokes, is a poor question for ELU/SE because it is too opinion based. The author may have meant many things, and interpretations can go in many directions. It also requires a lot more context even if you had a very specific, objective question (eg who does 'her' refer to). – Mitch Jan 29 at 2:32
  • 'her' obviously refers to 'trained soprano' and needs no more context. I know you are talking about what, but in this case you are off-topic, not my question. – Connoisseur Jan 30 at 18:14

'What work with hers is this?' would perhaps be better read as: What work, with hers, is this?

I believe he is referring to the song being performed. The phrase suggests a feeling of wondering from the narrator. He asks (metaphorically) what work (piece of music) with her own work (singing) as accompaniment, is being played.

A more natural version for modern ears might be something as simple as 'What is this song?!'

  • Perfect. It was my first guess either. He is saying "which piece is going with her voice?". – Connoisseur Jan 28 at 21:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.