Cover image for Leaves of grass: authoritative texts, prefaces, Whitman on his art, criticism.
Title:
Leaves of grass: authoritative texts, prefaces, Whitman on his art, criticism.
Author:
Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Norton [1973]
Physical Description:
lx, 1008 pages : portraits, facsimiles ; 22 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393043549

9780393093889
Format :
Book

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PS3201 1973 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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PS3201 1973 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
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Summary

Summary

This edition is based on the venerable Norton Critical Edition of Leaves of Grass (1973), edited by the late Scully Bradley and Harold Blodgett.


Author Notes

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a carpenter. He left school when he was 11 years old to take a variety of jobs. By the time he was 15, Whitman was living on his own in New York City, working as a printer and writing short pieces for newspapers. He spent a few years teaching, but most of his work was either in journalism or politics. Gradually, Whitman became a regular contributor to a variety of Democratic Party newspapers and reviews, and early in his career established a rather eccentric way of life, spending a great deal of time walking the streets, absorbing life and talking with laborers. Extremely fond of the opera, he used his press pass to spend many evenings in the theater.

In 1846, Whitman became editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, a leading Democratic newspaper. Two years later, he was fired for opposing the expansion of slavery into the west.

Whitman's career as a poet began in 1885, with the publication of the first edition of his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The book was self-published (Whitman probably set some of the type himself), and despite his efforts to publicize it - including writing his own reviews - few people read it. One reader who did appreciate it was essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a letter greeting Whitman at "the beginning of a great career." Whitman's poetry was unlike any verse that had ever been seen. Written without rhyme, in long, loose lines, filled with poetic lists and exclamations taken from Whitman's reading of the Bible, Homer, and Asian poets, these poems were totally unlike conventional poetry. Their subject matter, too, was unusual - the celebration of a free-spirited individualist whose love for all things and people seemed at times disturbingly sensual. In 1860, with the publication of the third edition on Leaves of Grass, Whitman alienated conventional thinkers and writers even more. When he went to Boston to meet Emerson, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell, they all objected to the visit.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman's attentions turned almost exclusively to that conflict. Some of the greatest poetry of his career, including Drum Taps (1865) and his magnificent elegy for President Abraham Lincoln, "When Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (1865), was written during this period. In 1862, his brother George was wounded in battle, and Whitman went to Washington to nurse him. He continued as a hospital volunteer throughout the war, nursing other wounded soldiers and acting as a benevolent father-figure and confidant. Parts of his memoir Specimen Days (1882) record this period.

After the war, Whitman stayed on in Washington, working as a government clerk and continuing to write. In 1873 he suffered a stroke and retired to Camden, New Jersey, where he lived as an invalid for the rest of his life. Ironically, his reputation began to grow during this period, as the public became more receptive to his poetic and personal eccentricities.

Whitman tried to capture the spirit of America in a new poetic form. His poetry is rough, colloquial, sweeping in its vistas - a poetic equivalent of the vast land and its varied peoples. Critic Louis Untermeyer has written, "In spite of Whitman's perplexing mannerisms, the poems justify their boundless contradictions. They shake themselves free from rant and bombastic audacities and rise into the clear air of major poetry. Such poetry is not large but self-assured; it knows, as Whitman asserted, the amplitude of time and laughs at dissolution. It contains continents; it unfolds the new heaven and new earth of the Western world." American poetry has never been the same since Whitman tore it away from its formal and thematic constraints, and he is considered by virtually all critics today to be one of the greatest poets the country has ever produced.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a carpenter. He left school when he was 11 years old to take a variety of jobs. By the time he was 15, Whitman was living on his own in New York City, working as a printer and writing short pieces for newspapers. He spent a few years teaching, but most of his work was either in journalism or politics. Gradually, Whitman became a regular contributor to a variety of Democratic Party newspapers and reviews, and early in his career established a rather eccentric way of life, spending a great deal of time walking the streets, absorbing life and talking with laborers. Extremely fond of the opera, he used his press pass to spend many evenings in the theater.

In 1846, Whitman became editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, a leading Democratic newspaper. Two years later, he was fired for opposing the expansion of slavery into the west.

Whitman's career as a poet began in 1885, with the publication of the first edition of his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The book was self-published (Whitman probably set some of the type himself), and despite his efforts to publicize it - including writing his own reviews - few people read it. One reader who did appreciate it was essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a letter greeting Whitman at "the beginning of a great career." Whitman's poetry was unlike any verse that had ever been seen. Written without rhyme, in long, loose lines, filled with poetic lists and exclamations taken from Whitman's reading of the Bible, Homer, and Asian poets, these poems were totally unlike conventional poetry. Their subject matter, too, was unusual - the celebration of a free-spirited individualist whose love for all things and people seemed at times disturbingly sensual. In 1860, with the publication of the third edition on Leaves of Grass, Whitman alienated conventional thinkers and writers even more. When he went to Boston to meet Emerson, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell, they all objected to the visit.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman's attentions turned almost exclusively to that conflict. Some of the greatest poetry of his career, including Drum Taps (1865) and his magnificent elegy for President Abraham Lincoln, "When Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (1865), was written during this period. In 1862, his brother George was wounded in battle, and Whitman went to Washington to nurse him. He continued as a hospital volunteer throughout the war, nursing other wounded soldiers and acting as a benevolent father-figure and confidant. Parts of his memoir Specimen Days (1882) record this period.

After the war, Whitman stayed on in Washington, working as a government clerk and continuing to write. In 1873 he suffered a stroke and retired to Camden, New Jersey, where he lived as an invalid for the rest of his life. Ironically, his reputation began to grow during this period, as the public became more receptive to his poetic and personal eccentricities.

Whitman tried to capture the spirit of America in a new poetic form. His poetry is rough, colloquial, sweeping in its vistas - a poetic equivalent of the vast land and its varied peoples. Critic Louis Untermeyer has written, "In spite of Whitman's perplexing mannerisms, the poems justify their boundless contradictions. They shake themselves free from rant and bombastic audacities and rise into the clear air of major poetry. Such poetry is not large but self-assured; it knows, as Whitman asserted, the amplitude of time and laughs at dissolution. It contains continents; it unfolds the new heaven and new earth of the Western world." American poetry has never been the same since Whitman tore it away from its formal and thematic constraints, and he is considered by virtually all critics today to be one of the greatest poets the country has ever produced.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Excerpts

Excerpts

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' 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&rsquod 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'arches 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. From the eBook edition. Excerpted from Leaves of Grass: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, 1855-1856 by Walt Whitman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.