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    #1

    Use of "yet"

    Hi all, I'm John, and I'm not sure I'm in the right forum, but here goes. I am a grad student in history and am currently looking at Walt Whitman's self-titled poem (aka Song of Myself) in Leaves of Grass. Chant (verse) 222 of the 1860 edition reads: "I tell not the fall of Alamo; Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo; The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo." My question is, why are they dumb yet? Whitman is writing around 1850-55, at least fifteen years after the Alamo, and the "dumb" are the defenders who died there. But the use of "yet" makes it sound like their condition could change in the future. The next chant reads "Hear now the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve young men," speaking of the Goliad massacre, just days after Alamo. Is he juxtaposing "yet" and "now" to take the reader back to the time of Goliad (when the victims of the massacre would have heard of the Alamo's fall but no detailed accounts), or is this an implication that death is not permanent? Any insights would be helpful! Thanks

    John

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    #2

    Re: Use of "yet"

    I agree with that, but also feel that an extra dimension is given by the word 'yet', as if there is indeed some chance of their telling something in some supernatural way from beyond the grave one day.

    The other possibility, rather more mundane, is that the line doesn't scan without 'yet', and 'yet' is far more poetic than 'still'.

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    #3

    Re: Use of "yet"

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    I agree with that, but also feel that an extra dimension is given by the word 'yet', as if there is indeed some chance of their telling something in some supernatural way from beyond the grave one day.

    The other possibility, rather more mundane, is that the line doesn't scan without 'yet', and 'yet' is far more poetic than 'still'.
    I am not a teacher.

    The word "yet" means nothing more than "still" here. They are still mute, that's all. He did not intend for us to hear alternate definitions of the plain word he used. I think it's safe to say that "yet" in that meaning was more common in the old days than it is now.

    You know, I never liked Whitman much until I read "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" a couple of years ago. His use of language was a century ahead of his time. This "yet" of his emphasizes their deaths. They will be mute forever. Yes, it does suggest that they might speak, but only to drive home the fact that they never will. He chose "yet" not because he thought it was poetic, or because of any connotation of expectation, but because it sings the way he wanted it to, and "still" did not. He was a better writer than any of us is a reader.

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