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Song of Myself

Song of Myself

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Song of Myself

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Mar 2, 2012


Considered by many to be the quintessential American poet, Walt Whitman (1819-92) exerted a profound influence on all the American poets who came after him. And it was with this inspired, oceanic medley, "Song of Myself" (which in the first editions of Leaves of Grass was still nameless), that this great poet first made himself known to the world.
Readers familiar with the later, more widely published versions of Leaves of Grass will find this first version of "Song of Myself" new, surprising, and often superior to the later versions — and exhilarating in the freshness of its vision. In this inexpensive edition, this enormously influential work will especially delight students, teachers, and any devotee of Walt Whitman.
Mar 2, 2012

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Song of Myself - Walt Whitman

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Copyright © 2001 by Dover Publications, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Bibliographical Note

This Dover edition, first published in 2001, is an unabridged republication of Song of Myself from the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. A new introductory Note has been specially prepared for the present edition.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892.

Song of myself / Walt Whitman. p. cm.—(Dover thrift editions)

An unabridged republication of ‘Song of myself’ from the first (1855) edition of Leaves of grass; a new introductory note has been specially prepared for the present edition—T.p. verso.


I. Title. II. Series.

PS3222 .S6 2001



Manufactured in the United States by Courier Corporation



Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page





BORN IN 1819 at West Hills, in Huntington, Long Island, Walt Whitman was the son of a carpenter who moved his family to Brooklyn in 1823, a prosperous time for builders in the area. Whitman, largely self-educated, attended Brooklyn public schools for nearly six years, and then spent the next four years learning the printing trade. Moving back to Huntington with his family, Whitman edited and printed a newspaper, the Long Islander, for about a year. From 1840-45, he worked as a printer, taught in schools on Long Island, and worked as a journalist on various newspapers such as the Democratic Review and the Brooklyn Eagle.

In 1855, Walt Whitman published at his own expense Leaves of Grass, a volume of twelve untitled poems, including Song of Myself. One of his most famous single poems, this first and longest one—titled in 1856 A Poem of Walt Whitman, an American—had no internal divisions. These numbered divisions (appearing here in square brackets) were added sometime later when Whitman enlarged and revised his work, which eventually grew from a slim, 95-page folio to an expanded volume of 400 pages. It was not until the 1881 edition that the poem gained the title Song of Myself. Most critics agree that of all the subsequent editions, the 1855 version is the best; as Malcolm Cowley states, the text of the first edition is the purest text for ‘Song of Myself,’ since many of the later corrections were also corruptions of the style and concealments of the original meaning. Based on its frank celebration of sexuality, Leaves of Grass scandalized most of Whitman’s contemporaries, with the exception of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who received it enthusiastically, as did fellow transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott.

During the Civil War, Whitman volunteered as a nurse in the army hospitals in Washington, publishing Drum Taps (1865), a record of his experiences there. The Sequel to Drum Taps (1865) contained his moving poetic elegies on Lincoln, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d and O Captain! My Captain! He later worked as a clerk in the Department of the Interior, but was summarily fired from this position because of the supposed immorality of his poetry, an act which fanned the flames of Whitman’s notoriety and simultaneously increased sales of his writing. From 1865—73, he worked as a clerk in the Attorney General’s office. Whitman suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1873 and moved from Washington, D.C. to Camden, New Jersey, where he spent the rest of his life. Walt Whitman died in 1892, after having prepared an edition of his Complete Prose Works, as well as the eighth volume of Leaves of Grass (1891), known as the deathbed edition.

Unique among the American verse of his time, Song of Myself—as well as the rest of his poetry—reflected an intense individualism coupled with a mystical celebration of America and the common man. Concluding his 1855 prose preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman forecasted his prominence in American literature: The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it. Although Whitman was first recognized as an important literary figure in England and France, by the 20th century, he had surely achieved that self-professed goal. Whitman’s use of unconventional free verse, symbolic association, and original, vivid imagery strongly influenced a succession of American poets, securing his role as visionary for the future of American verse.



I celebrate myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease . . . . observing a spear of summer grass.


Houses and rooms are full of perfumes . . . . the shelves are crowded with perfumes,

I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it,

The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume . . . . it has no taste of the distillation . .

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    One of 60 low-priced classic texts published to celebrate Penguin's 60th anniversary. All the titles are extracts from "Penguin Classics" titles."Song of Myself", the opening poem from "Leaves of Grass", is a visionary poem that celebrates the miracle of nature and human life.