Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, on the West Hills of Long Island, New York. His mother, Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch descent and Quaker faith, whom he adored, was barely literate. She never read his poetry, but gave him unconditional love. His father of English lineage, was a carpenter and builder of houses, and a stern disciplinarian. His main claim to fame was his friendship with Tom Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense (1776), urging the colonists to throw off English domination was in his sparse library. It is doubtful that his father read any of his son’s poetry, or would have understood it if he had. The senior Walt was too burdened with the struggle to support his ever-growing family of nine children, four of whom were handicapped.

Young Walt, the second of nine, was withdrawn from public school at the age of eleven to help support the family. At the age of twelve he started to learn the printer’s trade, and fell in love with the written and printed word. He was mainly self-taught. He read voraciously, and became acquainted with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Scott early in life. He knew the Bible thoroughly, and as a God-intoxicated poet, desired to inaugurate a religion uniting all of humanity in bonds of friendship.

In 1836, at the age of 17, he began his career as an innovative teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He permitted his students to call him by his first name, and devised learning games for them in arithmetic and spelling. He continued to teach school until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career. He soon became editor for a number of Brooklyn and New York papers. From 1846 to 1847 Whitman was the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Whitman went to New Orleans in 1848, where he was editor for a brief time of the “New Orleans Crescent”. In that city he had become fascinated with the French language. Many of his poems contain words of French derivation. It was in New Orleans that he experienced at first hand the viciousness of slavery in the slave markets of that city.

On his return to Brooklyn in the fall of 1848, he founded a “free soil” newspaper, the “Brooklyn Freeman”. Between 1848 and 1855 he developed the style of poetry that so astonished Ralph Waldo Emerson. When the poet’s Leaves Of Grass reached him as a gift in July, 1855, the Dean of American Letters thanked him for “the wonderful gift” and said that he rubbed his eyes a little “to see if the sunbeam was no illusion.” Walt Whitman had been unknown to Emerson prior to that occasion. The “sunbeam” that illuminated a great deal of Whitman’s poetry was Music. It was one of the major sources of his inspiration. Many of his four hundred poems contain musical terms, names of instruments, and names of composers. He insisted that music was “greater than wealth, greater than buildings, ships, religions, paintings.” In his final essay written one year before his death in 1891, he sums up his struggles of thirty years to write Leaves of Grass. The opening paragraph of his self-evaluation “A Backward Glance O’er  Travel’d Road,” begins with his reminiscences of “the best of songs heard.” His concluding comments again return to thoughts about music, saying that “the strongest and sweetest songs remain yet to be sung.”

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” and “O Captain! My Captain!” (1866) are two of his more famous poems. A poet who was ardently singing on life and himself, Whitman is today claimed as one of the few truly great American men of letters.

Poems By Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass

1. Inscriptions

1. One’s-Self I Sing. (14 Comments »)
2. As I Ponder’d in Silence. (5 Comments »)
3. In Cabin’d Ships at Sea. (1 Comment »)
4. To Foreign Lands. (1 Comment »)
5. To a Historian. (1 Comment »)
6. For Him I Sing. (4 Comments »)
7. When I read the Book. (4 Comments »)
8. Beginning my Studies. (5 Comments »)
9. To Thee, Old Cause! (5 Comments »)
10. Starting from Paumanok. (1 Comment »)
11. Ship Starting, The. (4 Comments »)
12. Unfolded Out of the Folds. (5 Comments »)
14. Walt Whitman. (10 Comments »)
15. Laws for Creations. (8 Comments »)
16. Visor’d. (No Comments »)

10. Marches Now the War is Over

1. As I Sat Alone by Blue Ontario’s Shores. (1 Comment »)
2. Pioneers! O Pioneers! (14 Comments »)
3. Turn, O Libertad. (No Comments »)
4. Adieu to a Soldier. (5 Comments »)
5. As I Walk These Broad, Majestic Days. (No Comments »)
6. Weave in, Weave in, My Hardy Life. (No Comments »)
7. Race of Veterans. (4 Comments »)

11. Leaves of Grass

1. This Compost. (6 Comments »)
2. Unnamed Lands. (No Comments »)
3. Mannahatta. (No Comments »)
4. Old Ireland. (5 Comments »)
5. To Oratists. (1 Comment »)
6. A Hand-Mirror. (7 Comments »)
7. Germs. (8 Comments »)

12. Leaves of Grass

1. O Me! O Life! (17 Comments »)
3. Beginners. (1 Comment »)

13. Songs of Insurrection

1. Still, though the One I Sing. (2 Comments »)
2. To a foil’d European Revolutionaire. (2 Comments »)
3. France, the 18th year of These States. (No Comments »)
4. Europe, the 72d and 73d years of These States. (No Comments »)
5. Walt Whitman’s Caution. (3 Comments »)
6. To a Certain Cantatrice. (1 Comment »)

15. Songs of Parting

1. As the Time Draws Nigh. (3 Comments »)
2. Years of the Modern. (1 Comment »)
4. Song at Sunset. (1 Comment »)
5. When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer. (29 Comments »)
6. To Rich Givers. (No Comments »)
7. So Long. (1 Comment »)
8. Passage to India. (2 Comments »)
10. O Living Always—Always Dying. (6 Comments »)
11. Proud Music of The Storm. (1 Comment »)

16. Ashes of Soldiers

1. Ashes of Soldiers. (2 Comments »)
2. In Midnight Sleep. (1 Comment »)
3. Camps of Green. (4 Comments »)
4. To a Certain Civilian. (No Comments »)
5. Pensive on Her Dead Gazing, I Heard the Mother of All. (No Comments »)

17. President Lincoln's Burial Hymn

1. When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d. (12 Comments »)
2. O Captain! My Captain! (133 Comments »)
3. Hush’d be the Camps To-day. (No Comments »)
4. This Dust was Once the Man. (2 Comments »)
5. Poem of Joys. (No Comments »)
6. To Think of Time. (No Comments »)
7. Chanting the Square Deific. (No Comments »)

18. Whispers of Heavenly Death

1. Whispers of Heavenly Death. (9 Comments »)
2. Darest Thou Now, O Soul. (1 Comment »)
3. Of Him I Love Day and Night. (2 Comments »)
4. Assurances. (No Comments »)
5. Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours. (No Comments »)
6. Quicksand Years. (2 Comments »)
7. That Music Always Round Me. (3 Comments »)
8. As if a Phantom Caress’d Me. (1 Comment »)
9. Here, Sailor. (1 Comment »)
10. A Noiseless Patient Spider. (13 Comments »)
11. Last Invocation, The. (1 Comment »)
12. As I Watch’d the Ploughman Ploughing. (No Comments »)
13. Pensive and Faltering. (1 Comment »)

19. Sea-Shore Memories

1. Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking. (10 Comments »)
2. Elemental Drifts. (No Comments »)
3. Tears. (3 Comments »)
4. Aboard at a Ship’s Helm. (2 Comments »)
5. On the Beach at Night. (15 Comments »)
6. World Below the Brine, The. (1 Comment »)
7. On the Beach at Night, Alone. (6 Comments »)

2. Children of Adam

1. To the Garden the World. (2 Comments »)
2. From Pent-up Aching Rivers. (No Comments »)
3. I Sing the Body Electric. (7 Comments »)
4. A Woman Waits for Me. (3 Comments »)
5. Spontaneous Me. (1 Comment »)
6. One Hour to Madness and Joy. (No Comments »)
7. We Two—How Long We were Fool’d. (2 Comments »)
8. Out of the Rolling Ocean, the Crowd. (2 Comments »)
9. Native Moments. (1 Comment »)
10. Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City. (2 Comments »)
11. Facing West from California’s Shores. (No Comments »)
12. Ages and Ages, Returning at Intervals. (No Comments »)
13. O Hymen! O Hymenee! (No Comments »)
14. As Adam, Early in the Morning. (1 Comment »)
15. I Heard You, Solemn-sweet Pipes of the Organ. (No Comments »)
16. I am He that Aches with Love. (1 Comment »)
17. To Him that was Crucified. (No Comments »)
18. Perfections. (2 Comments »)

20. Leaves of Grass

1. A Carol of Harvest, for 1867 . (No Comments »)
2. Singer in the Prison, The. (No Comments »)
3. Warble for Lilac-Time. (1 Comment »)
4. Who Learns My Lesson Complete? (No Comments »)
6. Myself and Mine. (No Comments »)
7. To Old Age. (2 Comments »)
8. Miracles. (7 Comments »)
9. Sparkles from The Wheel. (No Comments »)
10. Excelsior. (No Comments »)
11. Mediums. (No Comments »)
12. Kosmos. (No Comments »)
13. To a Pupil. (3 Comments »)
14. What am I, After All? (No Comments »)
15. Others may Praise what They Like. (No Comments »)
16. Brother of All, with Generous Hand. (No Comments »)
17. Night on The Prairies. (No Comments »)
18. On Journeys Through The States. (1 Comment »)
19. Savantism. (No Comments »)
20. Locations and Times. (No Comments »)
22. Offerings. (No Comments »)
23. Tests. (No Comments »)
24. Torch, The. (No Comments »)
25. Gods. (1 Comment »)
26. To One Shortly to Die. (3 Comments »)
27. Song of the Exposition. (No Comments »)
28. One Song, America, Before I Go. (No Comments »)
29. Souvenirs of Democracy. (No Comments »)
30. As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free. (No Comments »)
31. Mystic Trumpeter, The. (1 Comment »)
32. O Star of France. (No Comments »)
33. Virginia—The West. (No Comments »)
34. By Broad Potomac’s Shore. (No Comments »)
35. Song of the Redwood-Tree. (1 Comment »)
36. Song of the Universal. (No Comments »)
37. Song for All Seas, All Ships. (No Comments »)
38. Eidólons. (No Comments »)
39. Prayer of Columbus. (No Comments »)
40. Spain 1873–’74. (No Comments »)
41. Out from Behind this Mask. (No Comments »)
42. To a Locomotive in Winter. (5 Comments »)
43. Ox Tamer, The. (No Comments »)
44. Wandering at Morn. (No Comments »)
45. An Old Man’s Thought of School. (1 Comment »)
46. With All Thy Gifts. (1 Comment »)
47. After the Sea-Ship. (1 Comment »)
48. Thou Reader. (No Comments »)
49. To the Man-of-War-Bird. (No Comments »)
50. Patroling Barnegat. (1 Comment »)
51. Dalliance of the Eagles, The. (3 Comments »)
52. Roaming in Thought. (No Comments »)
53. Gliding Over All. (No Comments »)
54. Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour. (No Comments »)
55. As Consequent, Etc. (No Comments »)
56. Italian Music in Dakota. (1 Comment »)
57. My Picture-Gallery. (4 Comments »)
58. Prairie States, The. (No Comments »)
59. A Paumanok Picture. (No Comments »)
60. Thou Orb Aloft Full-Dazzling. (No Comments »)
61. A Riddle Song. (3 Comments »)
62. From Far Dakota’s Cañons. (No Comments »)
63. What Best I See In Thee. (1 Comment »)
64. Spirit That Form’d This Scene. (No Comments »)
65. A Clear Midnight. (1 Comment »)
66. As At Thy Portals Also Death. (2 Comments »)
67. Sobbing of The Bells, The. (No Comments »)

21. Now Finale to the Shore

1. Now Finale to the Shore. (No Comments »)
2. Shut Not Your Doors, &c. (1 Comment »)
4. Untold Want, The. (No Comments »)
5. Portals. (No Comments »)
6. These Carols. (No Comments »)
7. What Place is Besieged? (No Comments »)
8. Joy, Shipmate, Joy! (No Comments »)

22. Gathered Leaves

1. Apostroph. (1 Comment »)
2. O Sun of Real Peace. (1 Comment »)
3. O Bitter Sprig! Confession Sprig! (No Comments »)
4. So Far and So Far, and on Toward the End. (No Comments »)
5. In the New Garden in all the Parts. (No Comments »)
6. States! (No Comments »)
7. Long I Thought that Knowledge. (1 Comment »)
8. Hours Continuing Long. (No Comments »)
9. Who is now Reading This? (No Comments »)
10. Primeval my Love for the Woman I Love. (No Comments »)
11. To You. (1 Comment »)
12. Of the Visage of Things. (No Comments »)
13. Says. (No Comments »)
14. Debris. (No Comments »)
15. What General has a Good Army. (1 Comment »)
16. Despairing Cries. (No Comments »)
17. One Sweeps By. (No Comments »)
18. What Weeping Face. (No Comments »)
19. I will Take an Egg Out of the Robin’s Nest. (4 Comments »)
20. Behavior. (No Comments »)
21. I Thought I was not Alone. (1 Comment »)
22. Inscription. (No Comments »)
23. Not My Enemies Ever Invade Me. (No Comments »)
24. Great are the Myths. (No Comments »)
25. Poem of Remembrance for a Girl or a Boy. (No Comments »)
26. Think of the Soul. (No Comments »)
27. Respondez! (No Comments »)
28. Solid, Ironical, Rolling Orb. (No Comments »)
29. Bathed in War’s Perfume. (No Comments »)
31. Lessons. (No Comments »)
32. This Day, O Soul. (No Comments »)
33. To the Reader at Parting. (No Comments »)
34. Two Rivulets. (1 Comment »)
35. Or from that Sea of Time. (No Comments »)
36. From My Last Years. (No Comments »)
37. In Former Songs. (No Comments »)

3. Calamus

1. In Paths Untrodden. (No Comments »)
2. Scented Herbage of My Breast. (2 Comments »)
3. Whoever You are, Holding Me now in Hand. (1 Comment »)
4. These, I, Singing in Spring. (No Comments »)
5. A Song. (No Comments »)
6. Not Heaving from My Ribb’d Breast Only. (No Comments »)
7. Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances. (2 Comments »)
8. Base of all Metaphysics, The. (No Comments »)
9. Recorders Ages Hence. (No Comments »)
10. When I heard at the Close of the Day. (2 Comments »)
11. Are You the New person, drawn toward Me? (1 Comment »)
12. Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone. (No Comments »)
13. Not Heat Flames up and Consumes. (No Comments »)
14. Trickle, Drops. (1 Comment »)
15. City of Orgies. (3 Comments »)
16. Behold this Swarthy Face. (No Comments »)
17. I saw in Louisiana a Live Oak Growing. (5 Comments »)
18. To a Stranger. (13 Comments »)
19. This Moment, Yearning and Thoughtful. (No Comments »)
20. I hear it was Charged against Me. (No Comments »)
21. Prairie-Grass Dividing, The. (No Comments »)
22. We Two Boys Together Clinging. (11 Comments »)
23. A Promise to California. (No Comments »)
24. Here the Frailest Leaves of Me. (2 Comments »)
25. When I peruse the Conquer’d Fame. (No Comments »)
26. What think You I take my Pen in Hand? (1 Comment »)
27. A Glimpse. (No Comments »)
28. No Labor-Saving Machine. (No Comments »)
29. A Leaf for Hand in Hand. (1 Comment »)
30. To the East and to the West. (No Comments »)
31. Earth! my Likeness! (No Comments »)
32. I Dream’d in a Dream. (1 Comment »)
33. Fast Anchor’d, Eternal, O Love. (No Comments »)
34. Sometimes with One I Love. (5 Comments »)
35. That Shadow, my Likeness. (2 Comments »)
36. Among the Multitude. (1 Comment »)
37. To a Western Boy. (1 Comment »)
38. O You Whom I Often and Silently Come. (2 Comments »)
39. Full of Life, Now. (3 Comments »)
40. Salut au Monde. (No Comments »)
41. A Child’s Amaze. (No Comments »)
42. Runner, The. (No Comments »)
43. Beautiful Women. (No Comments »)
44. Mother and Babe. (2 Comments »)
46. American Feuillage. (No Comments »)
47. Song of the Broad-Axe. (1 Comment »)
48. Song of the Open Road. (1 Comment »)

4. Leaves of Grass

1. I Sit and Look Out. (30 Comments »)
2. Me Imperturbe. (No Comments »)
3. As I lay with Head in your Lap, Camerado. (No Comments »)
4. Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. (1 Comment »)
5. With Antecedents. (No Comments »)

5. The Answerer

1. Now List to my Morning’s Romanza. (No Comments »)
2. Indications, The. (No Comments »)
3. Poets to Come. (2 Comments »)
4. I Hear America Singing. (72 Comments »)
5. City Dead-House, The. (1 Comment »)
6. A Farm-Picture. (3 Comments »)
7. Carol of Occupations. (No Comments »)
8. Thoughts. (No Comments »)
9. Sleepers, The. (2 Comments »)
10. Carol of Words. (No Comments »)
11. Ah Poverties, Wincings and Sulky Retreats. (No Comments »)

6. Leaves of Grass

1. A Boston Ballad, 1854. (No Comments »)
2. Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60. (No Comments »)
3. A Broadway Pageant. (2 Comments »)
4. Thought. (1 Comment »)

7. Leaves of Grass

1. There was a Child went Forth. (8 Comments »)
2. Longings for Home. (No Comments »)
3. You Felons on Trial in Courts. (No Comments »)
4. To a Common Prostitute. (2 Comments »)
5. I was Looking a Long While. (No Comments »)
6. To a President. (No Comments »)
7. To The States. (3 Comments »)

8. Drum-Taps

1. Drum-Taps. (1 Comment »)
2. 1861. (1 Comment »)
3. Beat! Beat! Drums! (15 Comments »)
4. From Paumanok Starting. (No Comments »)
5. Rise, O Days. (No Comments »)
6. City of Ships. (1 Comment »)
7. Centenarian’s Story, The. (No Comments »)
8. An Army Corps on the March. (No Comments »)
9. Cavalry Crossing a Ford. (No Comments »)
10. Bivouac on a Mountain Side. (2 Comments »)
11. By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame. (No Comments »)
12. Come up from the Fields, Father. (7 Comments »)
13. Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field. (No Comments »)
14. A March in the Ranks, Hard-prest. (1 Comment »)
15. A Sight in Camp. (1 Comment »)
16. Not the Pilot. (No Comments »)
17. As Toilsome I Wander’d. (1 Comment »)
18. Year that Trembled. (No Comments »)
19. Dresser, The. (No Comments »)
20. Long, too Long, O Land! (1 Comment »)
21. Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun. (4 Comments »)
22. Dirge for Two Veterans. (1 Comment »)
23. Over the Carnage. (No Comments »)
24. Artilleryman’s Vision, The. (2 Comments »)
25. I saw Old General at Bay. (No Comments »)
26. O Tan-faced Prairie Boy. (No Comments »)
27. Look Down, Fair Moon. (No Comments »)
28. Reconciliation. (No Comments »)
29. Spirit whose Work is Done. (No Comments »)
30. How Solemn as One by One. (No Comments »)
31. Not Youth Pertains to Me. (No Comments »)
32. To the Leaven’d Soil They Trod. (No Comments »)
33. Delicate Cluster. (No Comments »)
34. Sing of the Banner at Day-Break. (1 Comment »)
35. Ethiopia Saluting the Colors. (3 Comments »)
36. Lo! Victress on the Peaks. (No Comments »)
37. World, Take Good Notice. (1 Comment »)
38. Thick-Sprinkled Bunting. (No Comments »)

9. Leaves of Grass

1. Faces. (1 Comment »)
2. Manhattan Streets I Saunter’d, Pondering. (No Comments »)
3. All is Truth. (6 Comments »)
4. Voices. (4 Comments »)

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by Walt Whitman

4 Comments

  1. Luiza Provedel says:

    No, not confusing, no. This poem is about how voices can transform words, no better than transform, how they can “bring forth what lies slumbering, forever ready,
    in
    all
    words.”

  2. bird fancy says:

    i dont particularly like this poem..
    nothing much stands out about it, exceptfor the state of confusion after reading…

  3. kelly says:

    i love this poem, i don’t care what others say about it. this is what i got out of it: the things other people say influence us, but don’t let them change who you are. choose for yourself what you want to believe and make sure it’s valid.

  4. brenda garcia says:

    I think this is a confusing poem. It is not a very popular poem. It is interesting, but it confuses me…..

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