Walt Whitman: Selected Poems 1855-1892
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A century after his death, Whitman is still celebrated as America's greatest poet. In this startling new edition of his work, Whitman biographer Gary Schmidgall presents over two hundred poems in their original pristine form, in the chronological order in which they were written, with Whitman's original line breaks and punctuation. Included in this volume are facsimilies of Whitman's original manuscripts, contemporary-- and generally blistering-- reviews of Whitman's poetry (not surprisingly Henry James hated it), and early pre-Leaves of Grass poems that return us to the physical Whitman, rejoicing-- sometimes graphically-- in homoerotic love.
Unlike the many other available editions, all drawn from the final authorized or "deathbed" Leaves of Grass, this collection focuses on the exuberant poems Whitman wrote during the creative and sexual prime of his life, roughly between 1853 and 1860. These poems are faithfully presented as Whitman first gave them to the world-- fearless, explicit, and uncompromised-- before he transformed himself into America's respectable, mainstream Good Gray Poet through thirty years of revision, self-censorship, and suppression.
Whitman admitted that his later poetry lacked the "ecstasy of statement" of his early verse. Revealing that ecstasy for the first time, this edition makes possible a major reappraisal of our nation's first great poet.
coterie sitting constrain’d and still— for learning inures not to me; Beauty, knowledge, fortune, inure not to me— yet there are two things inure to me: I have nourish’d the wounded, and sooth’d many a dying soldier; And at intervals I have strung together a few songs, Fit for war, and the life of the camp. Unpublished Introduction Dec. 23, 1864 good—& must be used INTRODUCTION I claim that in literature, I have judged and felt every thing from an American point of view which is no local
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, And such as it is to be of these more or less I am. I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, Stuffed with the stuff that is coarse, and stuffed with the stuff that is fine, One of the great nation, the nation of many nations— the smallest the same and the largest the same, 330 A southerner soon as a
faultfinder’s or rejecter’s gait, I moisten the roots of all that has grown. Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy? Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be worked over and rectified? I step up to say that what we do is right and what we affirm is right…. and some is only the ore of right, Witnesses of us…. one side a balance and the antipodal side a balance, Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine, Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early
be supplied. Our perennial materials for fresh thoughts, histories, poems, music, orations, religions, recitations, amusements, will then not be disregarded, any more than our perennial fields, mines, rivers, seas. Certain things are established, and are immovable; in those things millions of years stand justified. The mothers and fathers of whom modern centuries have come, have not existed for nothing; they too had brains and hearts. Of course all literature, in all nations and years, will share
sheds light on his compositional habits. appendix 3 gathers several observations on Leaves of Grass made by Whitman in his conversations late in life with Horace Traubel. appendix 4 offers a sampling of reviews Whitman received over his career. The earliest of these, some breathtakingly vituperative, reveal the enormous pressure Whitman was under to retreat from his bold early editions. As he summed up in 1888 for Traubel, “The world now can have no idea of the bitterness of the feelings against