Whitman vs Dickenson on Locomotives

Walt Whitman’s poem “To a Locomotive in Winter” and Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Like to See it Lap Miles” are both based on what had been upcoming in their era: locomotives. Whitman used Old English to protray his admiration with the train, especially it’s physique and ‘will’, while Dickinson uses modern language to observe what the train does and how it acts. It almost seems as though Whitman is sexually describing the train, as if it’s a romantic poem of someone he loves. He describes the train as a, “fierce-throated beauty!” He also goes into details about not only the train, “Thy black cylindric body, golden brass, and silvery steel” but even the smoke that it emits, “Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate purple.”

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He is romantiscing the train and personifying it: “Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes… rousing all!” He also admires it’s strenght for pushing past the cold winter, the “storm, and buffeting gusts of wind, and falling snow” leaving only “dense and murky clouds” behind it. From these lines, it’s clear that imagery is used multiple times through out so that readers may picture the image of the “twinkle” on it’s weels and all the metals it’s made out of. He points out it’s leadership, “Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily-following”, all while the front cart is “careering” through the snowy tracks.

This can be symbolism for how the train can get past any obsticle even in the worst of situations. It seems he wants to indulge and share this feeling of power, “Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music.”He observes every little detail of the train, it’s “ponderous side-bars… rods, gyrating, shuttling at thy sides”, and connects all the details with it’s beauty, strong will, superiority, and concludes that it results in being free, moving along the vast endless land. On the other hand, Dickinson’s poem was no where near as passionate as Whitman’s. Although it did protray similar feelings toward the train, she described the train without lust.She gives the train the traits of a horse, it would “lick the Valleys up.. and stop to feed itself at Tanks.” She shares the similar idea that the train is powerful. A horse is powerful enough to carry people and items to a far distance and quickly as well. In this way she found that the horse and train were similar.

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