What does "to shame something out of someone" mean? Specially in this sentence by Walt Whitman:

the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

Does it mean the look of the bay mare shames him, because he realizes that how much silliness he has?

The full stanza:

I believe in those wing’d purposes,

And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,

And consider green and violet and the tufted crown intentional,

And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something else,

And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well to me,

And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

2 Answers 2


I would interpret it to mean that the gaze of the bay mare is so serious and perhaps "penetrating" that it causes me to suppress my natural tendency to be silly. (Remind me to never look a bay mare in the eyes!)


The beauty of poetry is that there is no single meaning or interpretation that can be derived from a any line, phrase, verse or stanza, that will be shared or agreed upon between all of the individuals who receive those words. And this does not make any of the manifold potential interpretations incorrect. Some may be less common, some may be widely shared, but each interpretation is genuine to the reader who has formed her impressions in the presence of those words.

What do you take from this line, and why?

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    I wrote what I got from this line. So if you have something to say I am here to listen, but I didn't ask what is the beauty of poetry and other things you mentioned. So please don't give a speech about general subjects. May 22, 2020 at 22:53
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    If you want a singular literal meaning, free of subjective interpretation, you are asking for the impossible as I will demonstrate. Gramatically the sentence is saying that the "look" of the mare, which could refer either to the mare's gaze or its general appearance, engendered a sensation of shame, generally held to be a human emotion, so ostensibly that is shame felt by the author. Why would he feel shame? It could be because he is filled with silliness, and that some proud, resolute, stoic aspect in the "look" of the mare (I am imparting all of these possible scenarious) engenders within
    – lumbrjak
    May 22, 2020 at 23:22
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    him, a sense of seriousness, the antithesis of silliness, and so his silliness dissipates. Or perhaps, contrary to this scenario, the author is a serious old fool that has kept his silliness bottled up inside. Maybe he is now getting in touch with his silly side. Several lines above intimate that colors are "playing" within him. Who knows what he draws from that "look" of the mare, but perhaps it blows the lid off, and the shame is for keeping it all locked up, and now it springs forth from him as he tip-toes through the tulips. Both scenarios equally plausible from the lines as written.
    – lumbrjak
    May 22, 2020 at 23:29
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    I’ll be briefer. The poet is impressed by magnificence of nature and the creatures he sees. The bay mare is so wonderful looking that being silly in the presence of such magnificence would be shameful.
    – Xanne
    May 23, 2020 at 1:14
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    Yes. But the problem is "out of me". Everybody can understand the general meaning of this line and this stanza. But I see nobody wants to discuss about literal and poetical meanings. How was "out of me" applied in this line? It is interesting that no native English person can describe it. May 23, 2020 at 21:42

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