“I’ll Fly Away” by Hank Williams and “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

In Hank Williams’ singing of “I’ll Fly Away” , the song carries a meaning of not just life and death, but a greater understanding and acceptance of this inevitable path taken by everyone, a shared theme emphasized not only in William’s song, but in Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” as well.

“That some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)
To that land on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)”

Rather than seeing it as something to be feared, Williams looks upon his eventual death as the beginning of an afterlife where he can fly through the skies forever and no longer carry the sorrows of human life. This is a similar meaning demonstrated in Whitman’s poem, where he feels a sense of contentment upon reaching his end. His description of his “white locks” in section 52 exemplify the long life he had lived, writing poetry and putting his work out into the world so that a part of him will always be kept alive.

“Like a bird from prison bars flown
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)
To a land where no sorrows are known
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)”

Williams compares his death to a bird flying free from a prison, finding peace beyond the world of the living. Whitman similarly compares his death to a tranquil departure in section 52, feeling still as he becomes one with the earth “to grow from the grass I love”. They share a more relaxed view on death than many others, not viewing it so much as them dying, but as them moving on the their next life as their impact on earth remains.

“When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye
I’ll (fly away) fly away
Thank you fellas”

In both Williams’ and Whitman’s work, they each take a moment to address the audience/reader and choose to speak directly to them as if saying their goodbyes to a loved one. Williams ends his song with “Thank you fellas” and Whitman ends his poem with “I stop somewhere waiting for you”, switching the focus from themselves to the audience and reaching out beyond the words of a song and text of a poem.

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