Five Years Later
After scanning through the 1860 version of Leaves of Grass while comparing it to the 1855 version, Whitman’s subtle switch from the use of elongated ellipsis’ became very noticeable. The ellipsis and the dash, utilized in the 1855 and 1860 versions, carry distinctly different connotations: specifically, the use of a 4-period ellipsis that usually indicates “a partial quote that is nonetheless a complete grammatical sentence,” whereas the dash is utilized “to set off an interruption that is closely relevant to the sentence but not grammatically part of it.”
I will not get off into appositives and the mechanics of writing, as I am nowhere near an expert and dread the though of teaching grammar to my future high school students—however, I do recognize, identify, respect and appreciate properly punctuated pieces. With that being said, I believe that Whitman’s subtle switch represents a nearing of completion for the poem and reflects the theme of expansion that runs throughout the poem.
In almost every instance that I have observed in Song of Myself, the switch from an ellipsis to a dash (or comma) creates the tone of a cataloging of observations rather than a collection of incomplete ideas. For me, the poem is moving forward and expanding.