What are the ‘tokens’ that the poet says he may have dropped long ago, and which the animals have kept for him? Discuss this in class. (Hint: Whitman belongs to the Romantic tradition that includes Rousseau and Wordsworth, which holds that civilisation has made humans false to their own true nature. What could be the basic aspects of our nature as living beings that humans choose to ignore or deny?
The token that the poet says he might have dropped long ago, and which the animals have kept for him, is his true nature as a human. While humans came close to civilisation, they gradually moved away from their true nature. The natural instincts that humans had and the innocence with which they lived and helped each other have been left behind somewhere. As they got near civilisation, they chose to leave behind the virtues of kindness, sincerity, unselfishness, joy, satisfaction, respectability, and sharing. They took to vices such as greed, selfishness, desire to capture everything, and other such inhuman characteristics. Animals have carried forward the real instincts and characteristics, which the poet looks at and tries to remember where he had negligently lost his true nature.