Whitman, Walt. "The City Dead-House".
The first person speaker describes his idle walk and his stopping by the gate of the city dead-house. A corpse of a dead unclaimed prostitute is just being carried out on the pavement. The speaker is completely absorbed by the spectacle.
The speaker observes the body and calls it divine. He calls the corpse a "house once full of passion and beauty". To him the "immortal house" surpasses even the "white-domed capitol" or cathedrals. He identifies the house with soul.
On the other hand, despite the many different emotions which the house experienced, the speaker observes that it is now dead.
The poem shows the speaker's love to life in all its manifestations, death included. Strikingly, he does not see primarily the corpse of a corrupt woman, but he imagines what this fellow being used to be when still alive.
The conclusion of the poem suggests that the speaker's celebration of the dead woman springs from what he imagines her to have been when she was alive, and not from her actual condition as a corpse. The speaker does not celebrate death, but rather what was once a representation of life.
AuthorWhitman, Walt. (1819 - 1892).
Full Title"The City Dead-House".
Whitman, Walt. "The City Dead-House". (1867). Leaves of Grass. NY: Penguin, 1944.