“I hear the bravuras of birds… the bustle of growing
wheat… gossip of flames… clack of sticks
cooking my meals” (Song of Myself 53).
A bravura can be either a noun or an adjective. As a noun, it is generally associated with music, meaning a¬†“Brilliant technique or style in performance…¬†[or]¬†A piece or passage that emphasizes a performer’s virtuosity.” However, it can also be more general, signifying¬†“A showy manner or display” (The American Heritage Dictionary).
The word functions similarly as an adjective, with it’s musical meaning being “Of, relating to, or being a brilliant performance technique or style.” More generally, it means “Showy; ostentatious” (read: Victorian)¬†(The American Heritage Dictionary).
Since, within the context of the poem, “bravura” is referring to bird songs, here is footage of the lyre bird as it busts out a mating song, which even comes with some awesome British narration. It’s not surprising that Whitman would use this word to describe the bird song that he hears. To him, nature is divine, and it’s creatures can’t help but sing at that level. The ornateness of the¬†“bravuras of the birds” contrasts with the simplicity of the terms that follow it, but¬†together they form a sort of uncivilized, bustling metropolis.
I know that Whitman refers to birds when using the word but, as a fan of heavy metal,¬†something else¬†came to mind when I read this definition: guitar solos. So, here is a video¬†of Yngwie Malsteen,¬†the most showy and ostentatious guitar player I can think of. I also¬†found what was¬†doubtlessly¬†one of the¬†inspirations for “This is Spinal Tap,”¬†an 11-minute live¬†version of Van Halen’s “Eruption,” but I decided to spare you guys.
September 07 2009 07:50 pm | Uncategorized