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.
a lover, near, I know very well I could not. Calamus 21 MUSIC always round me, unceasing, unbeginning— yet long untaught I did not hear, But now the chorus I hear, and am elated, A tenor, strong, ascending, with power and health, with glad notes of day-break I hear, A soprano, at intervals, sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves, A transparent bass, shuddering lusciously under and through the universe, The triumphant tutti—the funeral wailings, with sweet flutes and violins—All
Iliad to Shakspere inclusive can happily never again be realized—but the elements of courageous and lofty manhood are unchanged. Without yielding an inch the working-man and working-woman were to be in my pages from first to last. The ranges of heroism and loftiness with which Greek and feudal poets endow’d their god-like or lordly born characters—indeed prouder and better based and with fuller ranges than those—I was to endow the democratic averages of America. I was to show that we, here and
northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable, A Yankee bound my own way…. ready for trade…. my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth, A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deerskin leggings, A boatman over the lakes or bays or along coasts…. a Hoosier, a Badger, a Buckeye, A Louisianian or Georgian, a poke-easy from sandhills and pines, At home on Canadian snowshoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland, At home in the fleet of
from the rocks of the river…. swinging and chirping over my head, Calling my name from flowerbeds or vines or tangled underbrush, Or while I swim in the bath…. or drink from the pump at the corner…. or the curtain is down at the opera…. or I glimpse at a woman’s face in the railroad car; Lighting on every moment of my life, Bussing my body with soft and balsamic busses, Noiselessly passing handfuls out of their hearts and giving them to be mine. Old age superbly rising! Ineffable grace of
aldermen or congressmen—rather down in the bay with pilots in their pilot boats—or off on a cruise with fishers in a fishing smack—or with a band of laughers and roughs in the streets of the city or on the open grounds of the country—fond of New York and Brooklyn—fond of the life of the wharves and great ferries, or along Broadway, observing the endless wonders of the thoroughfare of the world—one whom, if you should meet, you need not expect to meet an extraordinary person—one in whom you will