"I Sit and Look Out" Constructed Response Activity

       I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
       I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after
       deeds done;

       I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
       I see the wife misused by her husband - I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
       I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid - I see these sights
       on the earth;

       I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny - I see martyrs and prisoners;
       I observe a famine at sea - I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill'd, to preserve
       the lives of the rest;
       I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and
       upon negroes, and the like;

       All these - All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
       See, hear, and am silent.

"I Sit and look Out" Taken from  Leaves of Grass. 1900  by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)


"...How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also. All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable...In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves...I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize..There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; who, esteeming themselves children of Washington and Franklin, sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing..."

"Civil Disobedience" (excerpt) 1849 By Henry D. Thoreau ( 1817-1862 )


1 What problems of society do Whitman and Thoreau comment on in their writings?

2 Discuss and explain the meaning of Whitman's poem and the excerpt from Thoreau's essay. Compare the message of each document, how are they alike and how do they differ? Include specific examples and language from each document in your response. Be sure to consider the significance of the title of each work.

3 What is a muckraker? Would a muckracker agree with the message of Whitman's poem? Explain

4 Write meaningful statements about the Progressive reformers using each of the following concept words; change, empathy, and justice.

5 Summarize the meaning of the Queen song Under Pressure. How is the message of the song similar to Whitman's poem and how are the works different? Be sure to consider language and imagery.

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