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Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition (with an Introduction by John Burroughs)

Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition (with an Introduction by John Burroughs)

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Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition (with an Introduction by John Burroughs)

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868 página
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Publicado:
Jan 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781420954814
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Libro

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In response to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call for the United States to have its own unique poetic voice, Walt Whitman rose to the challenge to create what would ultimately be his most profound work. Taking its title from the colloquial term “grass”, meaning a work of minor value, Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” is anything but that. Over his lifetime Whitman would continue to expand and revise his most famous work up until his death in 1892. The first edition contained just twelve poems, significantly smaller compared to the final “deathbed” edition, reproduced here, which included over 400. “Leaves of Grass” is unique for its celebration of the sensual pleasures of life in a time when such an attitude was considered immoral. A departure from a poetic tradition which relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on the religious and spiritual, “Leaves of Grass” instead focused on nature and the individual’s role in it. Initial reception of the work was quite controversial, but over time this collection of poetry has come to be acknowledged as one of the truly great American works of literature. This edition includes an introduction by John Burroughs.
Publicado:
Jan 1, 2017
ISBN:
9781420954814
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), arguably one of America's most influential and innovative poets, was born into a working-class family in West Hills, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. His Leaves of Grass, from which "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" comes, is considered one of the central volumes in the history of world poetry. While most other major writers of his time enjoyed a highly structured, classical education at private institutions, Whitman forged his own rough and informal curriculum, and his brief stint at teaching suggests that Whitman employed what were then progressive techniques -- encouraging students to think aloud rather than simply recite, and involving his students in educational games.

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Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman

LEAVES OF GRASS

THE DEATH BED EDITION

By WALT WHITMAN

Introduction by JOHN BURROUGHS

Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition

By Walt Whitman

Introduction by John Burroughs

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5480-7

eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-4209-5481-4

This edition copyright © 2017. Digireads.com Publishing.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Cover Image: a detail of The World Below the Brine. From the poem by Walt Whitman, John Millar Watt (1895-1975) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images.

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CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

BOOK I. INSCRIPTIONS

ONE’S-SELF I SING

AS I PONDER’D IN SILENCE

IN CABIN’D SHIPS AT SEA

TO FOREIGN LANDS

TO A HISTORIAN

TO THEE OLD CAUSE

EIDÓLONS

FOR HIM I SING

WHEN I READ THE BOOK

BEGINNING MY STUDIES

BEGINNERS

TO THE STATES

ON JOURNEYS THROUGH THE STATES

TO A CERTAIN CANTATRICE

ME IMPERTURBE

SAVANTISM

THE SHIP STARTING

I HEAR AMERICA SINGING

WHAT PLACE IS BESIEGED?

STILL THOUGH THE ONE I SING

SHUT NOT YOUR DOORS

POETS TO COME

TO YOU

THOU READER

BOOK II. STARTING FROM PAUMANOK

BOOK III. SONG OF MYSELF

BOOK IV. CHILDREN OF ADAM

TO THE GARDEN THE WORLD

FROM PENT-UP ACHING RIVERS

I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC

A WOMAN WAITS FOR ME

SPONTANEOUS ME

ONE HOUR TO MADNESS AND JOY

OUT OF THE ROLLING OCEAN THE CROWD

AGES AND AGES RETURNING AT INTERVALS

WE TWO, HOW LONG WE WERE FOOL’D

O HYMEN! O HYMENEE!

I AM HE THAT ACHES WITH LOVE

NATIVE MOMENTS

ONCE I PASS’D THROUGH A POPULOUS CITY

I HEARD YOU SOLEMN-SWEET PIPES OF THE ORGAN

FACING WEST FROM CALIFORNIA’S SHORES

AS ADAM EARLY IN THE MORNING

BOOK V. CALAMUS

IN PATHS UNTRODDEN

SCENTED HERBAGE OF MY BREAST

WHOEVER YOU ARE HOLDING ME NOW IN HAND

FOR YOU, O DEMOCRACY

THESE I SINGING IN SPRING

NOT HEAVING FROM MY RIBB’D BREAST ONLY

OF THE TERRIBLE DOUBT OF APPEARANCES

THE BASE OF ALL METAPHYSICS

RECORDERS AGES HENCE

WHEN I HEARD AT THE CLOSE OF THE DAY

ARE YOU THE NEW PERSON DRAWN TOWARD ME?

ROOTS AND LEAVES THEMSELVES ALONE

NOT HEAT FLAMES UP AND CONSUMES

TRICKLE DROPS

CITY OF ORGIES

BEHOLD THIS SWARTHY FACE

I SAW IN LOUISIANA A LIVE-OAK GROWING

TO A STRANGER

THIS MOMENT YEARNING AND THOUGHTFUL

I HEAR IT WAS CHARGED AGAINST ME

THE PRAIRIE-GRASS DIVIDING

WHEN I PERSUE THE CONQUER’D FAME

WE TWO BOYS TOGETHER CLINGING

A PROMISE TO CALIFORNIA

HERE THE FRAILEST LEAVES OF ME

NO LABOR-SAVING MACHINE

A GLIMPSE

A LEAF FOR HAND IN HAND

EARTH, MY LIKENESS

I DREAM’D IN A DREAM

WHAT THINK YOU I TAKE MY PEN IN HAND?

TO THE EAST AND TO THE WEST

SOMETIMES WITH ONE I LOVE

TO A WESTERN BOY

FAST ANCHOR’D ETERNAL O LOVE!

AMONG THE MULTITUDE

O YOU WHOM I OFTEN AND SILENTLY COME

THAT SHADOW MY LIKENESS

FULL OF LIFE NOW

BOOK VI. SALUT AU MONDE!

BOOK VII. SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD

BOOK VIII. CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY

BOOK IX. SONG OF THE ANSWERER

BOOK X. OUR OLD FEUILLAGE

BOOK XI. A SONG OF JOYS

BOOK XII. SONG OF THE BROAD-AXE

BOOK XIII. SONG OF THE EXPOSITION

BOOK XIV. SONG OF THE REDWOOD-TREE

BOOK XV. A SONG FOR OCCUPATIONS

BOOK XVI. A SONG OF THE ROLLING EARTH

YOUTH, DAY, OLD AGE AND NIGHT

BOOK XVII. BIRDS OF PASSAGE

SONG OF THE UNIVERSAL

PIONEERS! O PIONEERS!

TO YOU

FRANCE THE 18TH YEAR OF THESE STATES

MYSELF AND MINE

YEAR OF METEORS (1859-60.)

WITH ANTECEDENTS

BOOK XVIII. A BROADWAY PAGEANT

BOOK XIX. SEA-DRIFT

OUT OF THE CRADLE ENDLESSLY ROCKING

AS I EBB’D WITH THE OCEAN OF LIFE

TEARS

TO THE MAN-OF-WAR-BIRD

ABOARD AT A SHIP’S HELM

ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT

THE WORLD BELOW THE BRINE

ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE

SONG FOR ALL SEAS, ALL SHIPS

PATROLING BARNEGAT

AFTER THE SEA-SHIP

BOOK XX. BY THE ROADSIDE

A BOSTON BALLAD (1854.)

EUROPE THE 72D AND 73D YEARS OF THESE STATES.

A HAND-MIRROR

GODS

GERMS

THOUGHTS

WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN’D ASTRONOMER

PERFECTIONS

O ME! O LIFE!

TO A PRESIDENT

I SIT AND LOOK OUT

TO RICH GIVERS

THE DALLIANCE OF THE EAGLES

ROAMING IN THOUGHT

A FARM PICTURE

A CHILD’S AMAZE

THE RUNNER

BEAUTIFUL WOMEN

MOTHER AND BABE

THOUGHT

VISOR’D

THOUGHT

GLIDING O’ER ALL

HAST NEVER COME TO THEE AN HOUR

THOUGHT

TO OLD AGE

LOCATIONS AND TIMES

OFFERINGS

TO THE STATES TO IDENTIFY THE 16TH, 17TH, OR 18TH PRESIDENTIAD.

BOOK XXI. DRUM-TAPS

FIRST O SONGS FOR A PRELUDE

EIGHTEEN SIXTY-ONE

BEAT! BEAT! DRUMS!

FROM PAUMANOK STARTING I FLY LIKE A BIRD

SONG OF THE BANNER AT DAYBREAK

RISE O DAYS FROM YOUR FATHOMLESS DEEPS

VIRGINIA—THE WEST

CITY OF SHIPS

THE CENTENARIAN’S STORY

CAVALRY CROSSING A FORD

BIVOUAC ON A MOUNTAIN SIDE

AN ARMY CORPS ON THE MARCH

BY THE BIVOUAC’S FITFUL FLAME

COME UP FROM THE FIELDS FATHER

VIGIL STRANGE I KEPT ON THE FIELD ONE NIGHT

A MARCH IN THE RANKS HARD-PREST, AND THE ROAD UNKNOWN

A SIGHT IN CAMP IN THE DAYBREAK GRAY AND DIM

AS TOILSOME I WANDER’D VIRGINIA’S WOODS

NOT THE PILOT

YEAR THAT TREMBLED AND REEL’D BENEATH ME

THE WOUND-DRESSER

LONG, TOO LONG AMERICA

GIVE ME THE SPLENDID SILENT SUN

DIRGE FOR TWO VETERANS

OVER THE CARNAGE ROSE PROPHETIC A VOICE

I SAW OLD GENERAL AT BAY

THE ARTILLERYMAN’S VISION

ETHIOPIA SALUTING THE COLORS

NOT YOUTH PERTAINS TO ME

RACE OF VETERANS

WORLD TAKE GOOD NOTICE

O TAN-FACED PRAIRIE-BOY

LOOK DOWN FAIR MOON

RECONCILIATION

HOW SOLEMN AS ONE BY ONE

AS I LAY WITH MY HEAD IN YOUR LAP CAMERADO

DELICATE CLUSTER

TO A CERTAIN CIVILIAN

LO, VICTRESS ON THE PEAKS

SPIRIT WHOSE WORK IS DONE

ADIEU TO A SOLDIER

TURN O LIBERTAD

TO THE LEAVEN’D SOIL THEY TROD

BOOK XXII. MEMORIES OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

WHEN LILACS LAST IN THE DOORYARD BLOOM’D

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

HUSH’D BE THE CAMPS TO-DAY

THIS DUST WAS ONCE THE MAN

BOOK XXIII. BY BLUE ONTARIO’S SHORE

REVERSALS

BOOK XXIV. AUTUMN RIVULETS

AS CONSEQUENT, ETC.

THE RETURN OF THE HEROES

THERE WAS A CHILD WENT FORTH

OLD IRELAND

THE CITY DEAD-HOUSE

THIS COMPOST

TO A FOIL’D EUROPEAN REVOLUTIONAIRE

UNNAMED LAND

SONG OF PRUDENCE

THE SINGER IN THE PRISON

WARBLE FOR LILAC-TIME

OUTLINES FOR A TOMB

OUT FROM BEHIND THIS MASK

VOCALISM

TO HIM THAT WAS CRUCIFIED

YOU FELONS ON TRIAL IN COURTS

LAWS FOR CREATIONS

TO A COMMON PROSTITUTE

I WAS LOOKING A LONG WHILE

THOUGHT

MIRACLES

SPARKLES FROM THE WHEEL

TO A PUPIL

UNFOLDED OUT OF THE FOLDS

WHAT AM I AFTER ALL

KOSMOS

OTHERS MAY PRAISE WHAT THEY LIKE

WHO LEARNS MY LESSON COMPLETE?

TESTS

THE TORCH

O STAR OF FRANCE

THE OX-TAMER

AN OLD MAN’S THOUGHT OF SCHOOL

WANDERING AT MORN

ITALIAN MUSIC IN DAKOTA

WITH ALL THY GIFTS

MY PICTURE-GALLERY

THE PRAIRIE STATES

BOOK XXV. PROUD MUSIC OF THE STORM

BOOK XXVI. PASSAGE TO INDIA

BOOK XXVII. PRAYER OF COLUMBUS

BOOK XXVIII. THE SLEEPERS

TRANSPOSITIONS

BOOK XXIX. TO THINK OF TIME

BOOK XXX. WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH

DAREST THOU NOW O SOUL

WHISPERS OF HEAVENLY DEATH

CHANTING THE SQUARE DEIFIC

OF HIM I LOVE DAY AND NIGHT

YET, YET, YE DOWNCAST HOURS

AS IF A PHANTOM CARESS’D ME

ASSURANCES

QUICKSAND YEARS

THAT MUSIC ALWAYS ROUND ME

WHAT SHIP PUZZLED AT SEA

A NOISELESS PATIENT SPIDER

O LIVING ALWAYS, ALWAYS DYING

TO ONE SHORTLY TO DIE

NIGHT ON THE PRAIRIES

THOUGHT

THE LAST INVOCATION

AS I WATCH THE PLOUGHMAN PLOUGHING

PENSIVE AND FALTERING

BOOK XXXI. THOU MOTHER WITH THY EQUAL BROOD

A PAUMANOK PICTURE

BOOK XXXII. FROM NOON TO STARRY NIGHT

THOU ORB ALOFT FULL-DAZZLING

FACES

THE MYSTIC TRUMPETER

TO A LOCOMOTIVE IN WINTER

O MAGNET-SOUTH

MANNAHATTA

ALL IS TRUTH

A RIDDLE SONG

EXCELSIOR

AH POVERTIES, WINCINGS, AND SULKY RETREATS

THOUGHTS

MEDIUMS

WEAVE IN, MY HARDY LIFE

SPAIN, 1873-74.

BY BROAD POTOMAC’S SHORE

FROM FAR DAKOTA’S CANYONS

OLD WAR-DREAMS

THICK-SPRINKLED BUNTING

WHAT BEST I SEE IN THEE

SPIRIT THAT FORM’D THIS SCENE

AS I WALK THESE BROAD MAJESTIC DAYS

A CLEAR MIDNIGHT

BOOK XXXIII. SONGS OF PARTING

AS THE TIME DRAWS NIGH

YEARS OF THE MODERN

ASHES OF SOLDIERS

THOUGHTS

SONG AT SUNSET

AS AT THY PORTALS ALSO DEATH

MY LEGACY

PENSIVE ON HER DEAD GAZING

CAMPS OF GREEN

THE SOBBING OF THE BELLS

AS THEY DRAW TO A CLOSE

JOY, SHIPMATE, JOY!

THE UNTOLD WANT

PORTALS

THESE CAROLS

NOW FINALE TO THE SHORE

SO LONG!

BOOK XXXIV. FIRST ANNEX, SANDS AT SEVENTY

MANNAHATTA

PAUMANOK

FROM MONTAUK POINT

TO THOSE WHO’VE FAIL’D

A CAROL CLOSING SIXTY-NINE

THE BRAVEST SOLDIERS

A FONT OF TYPE

AS I SIT WRITING HERE

MY CANARY BIRD

QUERIES TO MY SEVENTIETH YEAR

THE WALLABOUT MARTYRS

THE FIRST DANDELION

AMERICA

MEMORIES

TO-DAY AND THEE

AFTER THE DAZZLE OF DAY

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, BORN FEB. 12, 1809

OUT OF MAY’S SHOWS SELECTED

HALCYON DAYS

FANCIES AT NAVESINK

ELECTION DAY, NOVEMBER, 1884

WITH HUSKY-HAUGHTY LIPS, O SEA!

DEATH OF GENERAL GRANT

RED JACKET (FROM ALOFT)

WASHINGTON’S MONUMENT FEBRUARY, 1885

OF THAT BLITHE THROAT OF THINE

BROADWAY

TO GET THE FINAL LILT OF SONGS

OLD SALT KOSSABONE

THE DEAD TENOR

CONTINUITIES

YONNONDIO

LIFE

GOING SOMEWHERE

SMALL THE THEME OF MY CHANT

TRUE CONQUERORS

THE UNITED STATES TO OLD WORLD CRITICS

THE CALMING THOUGHT OF ALL

THANKS IN OLD AGE

LIFE AND DEATH

THE VOICE OF THE RAIN

SOON SHALL THE WINTER’S FOIL BE HERE

WHILE NOT THE PAST FORGETTING

THE DYING VETERAN

STRONGER LESSONS

A PRAIRIE SUNSET

TWENTY YEARS

ORANGE BUDS BY MAIL FROM FLORIDA

TWILIGHT

YOU LINGERING SPARSE LEAVES OF ME

NOT MEAGRE, LATENT BOUGHS ALONE

THE DEAD EMPEROR

AS THE GREEK’S SIGNAL FLAME

THE DISMANTLED SHIP

NOW PRECEDENT SONGS, FAREWELL

AN EVENING LULL

OLD AGE’S LAMBENT PEAKS

AFTER THE SUPPER AND TALK

BOOK XXXV. SECOND ANNEX, GOOD-BYE MY FANCY

PREFACE NOTE TO 2d ANNEX,

SAIL OUT FOR GOOD, EIDÓLON YACHT!

LINGERING LAST DROPS

GOOD-BYE MY FANCY

ON, ON THE SAME, YE JOCUND TWAIN!

MY 71ST YEAR

APPARITIONS

THE PALLID WREATH

AN ENDED DAY

OLD AGE’S SHIP & CRAFTY DEATH’S

TO THE PENDING YEAR

SHAKSPERE-BACON’S CIPHER

LONG, LONG HENCE

BRAVO, PARIS EXPOSITION!

INTERPOLATION SOUNDS

TO THE SUN-SET BREEZE

OLD CHANTS

A CHRISTMAS GREETING

SOUNDS OF THE WINTER

A TWILIGHT SONG

WHEN THE FULL-GROWN POET CAME

OSCEOLA

A VOICE FROM DEATH

A PERSIAN LESSON

THE COMMONPLACE

THE ROUNDED CATALOGUE DIVINE COMPLETE

MIRAGES

L. OF G.’S PURPORT

THE UNEXPRESS’D

GRAND IS THE SEEN

UNSEEN BUDS

GOOD-BYE MY FANCY!

A BACKWARD GLANCE O’ER TRAVEL’D ROADS.

Introduction

Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; hankering like the great elk in the forest in springtime; gross as unhoused Nature is gross; mystical as Boehme or Svedenborg; and so far as the concealments and disguises of the conventional man, and the usual adornments of polite verse, are concerned, as nude as Adam in Paradise. Indeed, it was the nudity of Walt Whitman’s verse, both in respect to its subject-matter and his mode of treatment of it, that so astonished, when it did not repel, his readers. He boldly stripped away everything conventional and artificial from man,—clothes, customs, institutions, etc.,—and treated him as he is, primarily, in and of himself and in his relations to the universe; and with equal boldness he stripped away what were to him the artificial adjuncts of poetry,—rhyme, measure, and all the stock language and forms of the schools,—and planted himself upon a spontaneous rhythm of language and the inherently poetic in the common and universal.

The result is the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature, and one the merits of which will doubtless long divide the reading public. It gave a rude shock to most readers of current poetry; but it was probably a wholesome shock, like the rude douse of the sea to the victim of the warmed and perfumed bath. The suggestion of the sea is not inapt; because there is, so to speak, a briny, chafing, elemental, or cosmic quality about Whitman’s work that brings up the comparison,—a something in it bitter and forbidding, that the reader must conquer and become familiar with before he can appreciate the tonic and stimulating quality which it really holds. To Whitman may be applied, more truly than to any other poet, Wordsworth’s lines:—

"You must love him ere to you

He will seem worthy of your love."

As the new generations are less timid and conforming than their fathers, and take more and more to the open air and its exhilarations, so they are coming more and more into relation with the spirit of this poet of democracy. If Whitman means anything, he means the open air, and a life fuller and fuller of the sanity, the poise, and the health of nature; freer and freer of everything that hampers, enervates, enslaves, and makes morbid and sickly the body and the soul of man.

Whitman was the first American poet of any considerable renown born outside of New England, and the first to show a larger, freer, bolder spirit than that of the New England poets. He was a native of Long Island, where at West Hills he was born on the 31st of May, 1819, and where his youth was passed. On his mother’s side he was Holland Dutch, on his father’s, English. There was a large family of boys and girls, who grew to be men and women of marked type,—large in stature, rather silent and slow in movement, and of great tenacity of purpose. All the children showed Dutch traits, which were especially marked in Walt, the eldest. Mr. William Sloan Kennedy, who has given a good deal of attention to the subject, attributes Whitman’s stubbornness, his endurance, his practicality, his sanity, his excessive neatness and purity of person, and the preponderance in him of the simple and serious over the humorous and refined, largely to his Dutch ancestry. His phlegm, his absorption, his repose, and especially his peculiar pink-tinged skin, also suggested the countrymen of Rubens. The Quaker element also entered into his composition, through his maternal grandmother. Mr. Kennedy recognizes this in his silence, his sincerity and plainness, his self-respect and respect for every other human being, his fresh speech, his unconventionally, his placidity, his benevolence and friendship, and his deep religiousness. Whitman faithfully followed the inward light, the inward voice, and gave little or no heed to the dissenting or remonstrating voices of the world about him. The more determined the opposition, the more intently he seems to have listened to the inward promptings.

The events of his life were few and ordinary. While yet a child the family moved to Brooklyn, where the father worked at his trade of carpentering, and where young Whitman attended the common school till his thirteenth year. About this time he found employment in a printing-office and learned to set type, and formed there tastes and associations with printers and newspaper work that were strong with him ever after. At the age of seventeen he became a country school-teacher on Long Island, and began writing for newspapers and magazines. We next hear of him about 1838-40 as editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper at Huntington, Long Island. After this enterprise was abandoned, he found employment for five or six years mainly in printing-offices as compositor, with occasional contributions to the periodical literature of the day. He also wrote novels; only the title of one of them—Frank Evans, a temperate tale—being preserved. In 1846-47 he was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. It was during this decade, or from his twentieth to his thirtieth year, that he seems to have entered so heartily and lovingly into the larger, open-air life of New York: familiarizing himself with all classes of workingmen and all trades and occupations; fraternizing with drivers, pilots, mechanics; going, as he says in his poems, with powerful uneducated persons,—letting his democratic proclivities have full swing, and absorbing much that came to the surface later in his Leaves of Grass. He was especially fond of omnibus drivers,—a unique class of men who have now disappeared. It is reported of him that he once took the place of a disabled driver and drove for him all winter, that the man’s family might not suffer while he was recovering in the hospital. During this period he occasionally appeared as a stump speaker at political mass-meetings in New York and on Long Island, and was much liked.

When about thirty years of age, he set out on an extended and very leisurely tour through the Middle, Western, and Southern States, again absorbing material for his future work, and fetching up finally in New Orleans, where he tarried a year or more, and where he found employment on the editorial staff of the Crescent newspaper. In 1850 we find him again in Brooklyn, where he started the Freeman, an organ of the Free Soilers. But the paper was short-lived. Whitman had little business capacity, and was ill-suited to any task that required punctuality, promptness, or strict business methods. He was a man, as he says in his Leaves, preoccupied of his own soul; and money-getting and ordinary worldly success attracted him but little. From 1851 to 1854 he turned his hand to his father’s trade of carpentering, building, and selling small houses to workingmen. It is said that he might have prospered in this business had he continued in it. But other schemes filled his head.

He was already big with the conception of Leaves of Grass, for which consciously and unconsciously he had been many years getting ready. He often dropped his carpentering to write away at his Leaves. Finally, after, many rewritings, in the spring of 1855 he went to press with his book, setting up most of the type himself. It came out as a thin quarto of ninety-four pages, presenting a curious impression upon the reader’s mind. It attracted little attention save ridicule, till Emerson wrote the author a letter containing a magnificent eulogium of the book, which Dana of the Tribune persuaded Whitman to publish,—to Emerson’s subsequent annoyance, since the letter was made to cover a later edition of the Leaves, in which was much more objectionable matter than in the first. This letter brought the volume into notice, and helped to launch it and subsequent enlarged editions of it upon its famous career, in both hemispheres. So utterly out of keeping with the current taste in poetry was Whitman’s work, that the first impression of it was, and in many minds still is, to excite mirth and ridicule. This was partly because it took no heed of the conventionalities of poetry or of human life, and partly because of the naïve simplicity of the author’s mind. In his poetry he seems as untouched by our modern sophistications and the over-refinements of modern culture as any of the Biblical writers.

In the second year of the Civil War Whitman left Brooklyn and became a volunteer nurse in the army hospitals in Washington. To this occupation he gave much of his time and much of his substance till after the close of the war. It is claimed for him that he personally visited and ministered to over one hundred thousand sick and wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. Out of this experience grew his Drum Taps, a thin volume of poems published in 1866. It was subsequently incorporated with his Leaves. These were not battle-pieces, or songs of triumph over a fallen foe,

"But a little book containing night’s darkness, and blood-dripping wounds,

and psalms of the dead."

During these hospital years Whitman supported himself mainly by writing letters to the New York Times. His Hospital Memoranda include most of this material. He wrote copious letters to his mother at the same time, which were issued in book form during the fall of 1897 by his new Boston publishers, and named The Wound-Dresser. From 1865 to 1873 Whitman occupied the desk of a government clerk in the Treasury Department. Previous to that time he had been dismissed from a position in the Interior Department by its head, James Harlan, because he was the author of Leaves of Grass.

His services in the army hospitals impaired his health, and early in 1873 he had a light stroke of paralysis. In the spring of that year he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his brother, Colonel George Whitman, was living. Camden now became his permanent home. His health was much impaired, his means very limited, but his serenity and cheerfulness never deserted him. Many foreign travelers made pilgrimages to Camden to visit him. He was generally regarded by Europeans as the one distinctive American poet, the true outcome in literature of modern democracy. He died March 26, 1892, and his body is buried in a Camden cemetery in an imposing granite tomb of his own designing. Whitman never married. He was always poor, but he was a man much beloved by young and old of both sexes, while in a small band of men and women he inspired an enthusiasm and a depth of personal attachment rare in any age. In person he was a man of large and fine physical proportions and striking appearance. His tastes were simple, his wants few. He was a man singularly clean in both speech and person. He loved primitive things; and his strongest attachments were probably for simple, natural, uneducated, but powerful, persons. The common, the universal—that which all may have on equal terms—was as the breath of his nostrils. In his Leaves he identifies himself fully with these elements, declaring that

What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me.

He aimed to put himself into a book, not after the manner of the gossiping essayist, like Montaigne, but after the manner of poetic revelation; and sought to make his pages give an impression analogous to that made by the living, breathing man. The Leaves are not beautiful like a statue, or any delicate and elaborate piece of carving; but beautiful, and ugly too if you like, as the living man or woman is beautiful or ugly. The appeal is less to our abstract, aesthetic sense, and more to our concrete, everyday sense of real things. This is not to say that our aesthetic perceptions are not stimulated; but only that they are appealed to in a different way, a less direct and premeditated way, than they are in the popular poetry. Without the emotion of the beautiful there can be no poetry; but beauty may be the chief aim and gathered like flowers into nosegays, as in most of the current poetry, or it may be subordinated and left as it were abroad in the air and landscape, as was Whitman’s aim. His conviction was that beauty should follow the poet, never lead him.

Whitman aimed at a complete human synthesis, and left the reader to make of it what he could; and he is not at all disturbed if he finds the bad there as well as the good, as in life itself. A good deal of mental pressure must be brought to bear upon him before his full meaning and significance comes out.

Readers who idly dip into him for poetic tidbits or literary morceaux, or who open his Leaves expecting to be regaled with flowers and perfumes, will surely be disappointed if not shocked. His work does not belong to the class of literary luxuries or delicacies. It is primary and fundamental, and is only indirectly poetic; that is, it does not seek beauty so much as it seeks that which makes beauty. Its method is not exclusive, but inclusive. It is the work of a powerful spirit that seeks to grasp life and the universe as a whole, and to charge the conception with religious and poetic emotion; perhaps I should say religious emotion alone, as Whitman clearly identifies the two. Light readers only find now and then a trace of the poetic in his work; they fail to see the essentially poetic character of the whole; and they fail to see that there is a larger poetry than that of gems and flowers. The poetry of pretty words and fancies is one thing; the poetry of vast conceptions and enthusiasm and of religious and humanitarian emotion is quite another.

Our pleasure in the rhymed, measured, highly wrought verse of the popular poets is doubtless more acute and instant than it is in the irregular dithyrambic periods of Whitman; the current poetry is more in keeping with the thousand and one artificial things with which the civilized man surrounds himself,—perfumes, colors, music; the distilled, the highly seasoned, the elaborately carved,—wine, sweetmeats, cosmetics, etc. Whitman, in respect to his art and poetic quality, is more like simple, natural products, or the everyday family staples,—meat, bread, milk,—or the free unhoused elements,—frost, rain, spray. There is little in him that suggests the artificial in life, or that takes note of, or is the outcome of, the refinements of our civilization. Though a man of deep culture, yet culture cannot claim him as her own, and in many of her devotees repudiates him entirely. He let nature speak, but in a way that the uncultured man never could. In its tone and spirit his Leaves of Grass is as primitive as the antique bards, while it yet implies and necessitates modern civilization.

It is urged that his work is formless, chaotic. On the other hand, it may be claimed that a work that makes a distinct and continuous impression, that gives a sense of unity, that holds steadily to an ideal, that is never in doubt about its own method and aims, and that really grips the reader’s mind or thought, is not in any deep sense formless. Leaves of Grass is obviously destitute of the arbitrary and artificial form of regular verse; it makes no account of the prosodical system, but its admirers claim for it the essential, innate form of all vital, organic things. There are imitations of Whitman that are formless; one feels no will or purpose in them; they make no more impact upon the reader’s mind than vapor upon his hand. A work is formless that has no motives, no ideas, no vertebra, no central purpose controlling and subordinating all the parts. In his plan, as I have said, Whitman aimed to outline a human life, his own life, here in democratic America in the middle of the nineteenth century, giving not merely its aesthetic and spiritual side, but its carnal side as well, and imbuing the whole with poetic passion. In working out this purpose, we are not to hold him to a mechanical definiteness and accuracy; he may build freely and range far and wide; a man is made up of many and contradictory elements, and his life is a compound of evil and of good. The forces that shape him are dynamic and not mechanic. If Whitman has confused his purpose, if all the parts of his work are not related more or less directly to this central plan, then is he in the true sense formless. The trouble with Whitman is, his method is that of the poet and not that of the essayist or philosopher. He is not the least didactic; he never explains or apologizes. The reader must take him on the wing or not at all. He does not state his argument so much as he speaks out of it and effuses its atmosphere.

Then he is avowedly the poet of vista: to open doors and windows, to let down bars rather than to put them up, to dissolve forms, to escape boundaries, to plant the reader on a hill rather than in a corner,—this fact is the explanation of the general character of his work in respect to form.

Readers who have a keen sense of what is called artistic form in poetry, meaning the sense of the deftly carved or shaped, are apt to be repelled by the absence of all verse architecture in the poems. A hostile critic might say they are not builded up, but heaped up. But this would give a wrong impression, inasmuch as a piece of true literature bears no necessary analogy to a house or the work of the cabinet-maker. It may find its type or suggestion in a tree, a river, or in any growing or expanding thing. Verse perfectly fluid, and without any palpable, resisting, extrinsic form whatever, or anything to take his readers’ attention away from himself and the content of his page, was Whitman’s aim.

Opinion will doubtless long be divided about the value of his work. He said he was willing to wait to be understood by the growth of the taste of himself. That his taste is growing, that the new generations are coming more and more into his spirit and atmosphere, that the mountain is less and less forbidding, and looms up more and more as we get farther from it, is obvious enough. That he will ever be in any sense a popular poet is in the highest degree improbable; but that he will kindle enthusiasm in successive minds, that he will be an enormous feeder to the coming poetic genius of his country, that he will enlarge criticism, and make it easy for every succeeding poet to be himself and to be American, and, finally, that he will take his place among the few major poets of the race, I have not the least doubt.

JOHN BURROUGHS

1902.

LEAVES OF GRASS

Come, said my soul,

Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)

That should I after return,

Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,

There to some group of mates the chants resuming,

(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)

Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on,

Ever and ever yet the verses owning—as, first, I here and now

Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Walt Whitman

Book I. Inscriptions

ONE’S-SELF I SING

One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person,

Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.

Of physiology from top to toe I sing,

Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the

Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,

The Female equally with the Male I sing.

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,

Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,

The Modern Man I sing.

AS I PONDER’D IN SILENCE

As I ponder’d in silence,

Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,

A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,

Terrible in beauty, age, and power,

The genius of poets of old lands,

As to me directing like flame its eyes,

With finger pointing to many immortal songs,

And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,

Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?

And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,

The making of perfect soldiers.

Be it so, then I answer’d,

I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,

Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and retreat, victory deferr’d and wavering,

(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field the world,

For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,

Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,

I above all promote brave soldiers.

IN CABIN’D SHIPS AT SEA

In cabin’d ships at sea,

The boundless blue on every side expanding,

With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,

Or some lone bark buoy’d on the dense marine,

Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,

She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,

By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,

In full rapport at last.

Here are our thoughts, voyagers’ thoughts,

Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said,

The sky o’erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,

We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,

The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,

The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,

The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,

And this is ocean’s poem.

Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,

You not a reminiscence of the land alone,

You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos’d I know not whither, yet ever full of faith,

Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!

Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it here in every leaf;)

Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the imperious waves,

Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,

This song for mariners and all their ships.

TO FOREIGN LANDS

I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle the New World,

And to define America, her athletic Democracy,

Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.

TO A HISTORIAN

You who celebrate bygones,

Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,

Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests,

I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights,

Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself,)

Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,

I project the history of the future.

TO THEE OLD CAUSE

To thee old cause!

Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,

Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,

Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,

After a strange sad war, great war for thee,

(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be really fought, for thee,)

These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.

(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,

Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)

Thou orb of many orbs!

Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!

Around the idea of thee the war revolving,

With all its angry and vehement play of causes,

(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)

These recitatives for thee,—my book and the war are one,

Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,

As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,

Around the idea of thee.

EIDÓLONS

I met a seer,

Passing the hues and objects of the world,

The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,

To glean Eidólons.

Put in thy chants said he,

No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,

Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,

That of Eidólons.

Ever the dim beginning,

Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,

Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)

Eidólons! Eidólons!

Ever the mutable,

Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,

Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,

Issuing Eidólons.

Lo, I or you,

Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,

We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,

But really build Eidólons.

The ostent evanescent,

The substance of an artist’s mood or savan’s studies long,

Or warrior’s, martyr’s, hero’s toils,

To fashion his eidolon.

Of every human life,

(The units gather’d, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)

The whole or large or small summ’d, added up,

In its eidolon.

The old, old urge,

Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,

From science and the modern still impell’d,

The old, old urge, Eidólons.

The present now and here,

America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl,

Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,

To-day’s Eidólons.

These with the past,

Of vanish’d lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,

Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors’ voyages,

Joining Eidólons.

Densities, growth, facades,

Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,

Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,

Eidólons everlasting.

Exalté, rapt, ecstatic,

The visible but their womb of birth,

Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,

The mighty earth-eidolon.

All space, all time,

(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,

Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)

Fill’d with Eidólons only.

The noiseless myriads,

The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,

The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,

The true realities, Eidólons.

Not this the world,

Nor these the universes, they the universes,

Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,

Eidólons, Eidólons.

Beyond thy lectures learn’d professor,

Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,

Beyond the doctor’s surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,

The entities of entities, Eidólons.

Unfix’d yet fix’d,

Ever shall be, ever have been and are,

Sweeping the present to the infinite future,

Eidólons, Eidólons, Eidólons.

The prophet and the bard,

Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,

Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,

God and Eidólons.

And thee my soul,

Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,

Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,

Thy mates, Eidólons.

Thy body permanent,

The body lurking there within thy body,

The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,

An image, an eidolon.

Thy very songs not in thy songs,

No special strains to sing, none for itself,

But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,

A round full-orb’d eidolon.

FOR HIM I SING

For him I sing,

I raise the present on the past,

(As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,)

With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,

To make himself by them the law unto himself.

WHEN I READ THE BOOK

When I read the book, the biography famous,

And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?

And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?

(As if any man really knew aught of my life,

Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,

Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections

I seek for my own use to trace out here.)

BEGINNING MY STUDIES

Beginning my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,

The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,

The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,

The first step I say awed me and pleas’d me so much,

I have hardly gone and hardly wish’d to go any farther,

But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.

BEGINNERS

How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)

How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,

How they inure to themselves as much as to any—what a paradox appears their age,

How people respond to them, yet know them not,

How there is something relentless in their fate all times,

How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,

And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same great purchase.

TO THE STATES

To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little,

Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,

Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.

ON JOURNEYS THROUGH THE STATES

On journeys

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