I decided to perform a short experiment. I examined one of my favorite Whitman passages, the last stanza in Song of Myself. Then I went to the Psalms, started at Ps. 23 and searched forward until I found one that was roughly the same length. This was fast as I chose Ps. 26 to be close. Then I counted the feet.
Song of myself, stanza number 52
King James Psalm 26
1Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.
2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
3For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.
4I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.
5I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.
6I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:
7That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
8LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
9Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men:
10In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.
11But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.
12My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.
By my counts, Whitman Song of Myself stanza 52:
7 verses; syllables 22, 29, 39, 31, 29, 20, 26; total 203, average 29;
12 verses; syllables 29, 15, 18, 18, 22, 20, 20, 21, 15, 14, 24, 20; total 236, average 20.
This was a fun experiment. From two data points we cannot conclude Psalms is written in decameter and Leaves of Grass is written in pentadecameter, but it might be that Whitman did represent a shift of line lengthening, or a consideration of Psalms as being a book of poetry, first. At the time he began many poets were grooved upon the pentameter line, and poets as late as Alfred Lord Tennyson were concentrating on pentameter. The literature professor is not at all contradicted by my findings.
I have been playing with Natural Language Processing and it seems it would be feasible to construct a line analyzer and construct statistics in an automated fashion for all of the Psalms and Leaves of Grass and quantify this idea. I do not personally know any Natural Language Processing practitioners; perhaps this is a trivial exercise they all do in their first semester class.
As a public speaking exercise, I have been reading aloud from Psalms and Leaves of Grass. My teacher who told me about the resemblance also told me that the voice of Leaves of Grass is the voice of American public discourse. He said any time Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama gave a speech, it echoed Whitman. He told me professional political speechwriters read Leaves of Grass over and over to use as a template. If one can internalize that voice, it will make his own voice more listenable. I have been doing these readings for around a year and a half, but have not noticed much effect yet.One thing is unarguable. Whitman is the voice of the psalmist in that he lived one of those verses in Psalm 26--he told us all of God's wondrous works. At times it can seem as if Whitman was obsessed with Ps: 26.7.
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.