Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman


(1819-1892)


Walter Whitman was an American poet and a son of Long Island. His collection of poems, "Leaves Of Grass," is considered one of the world's major literary works. Whitman was a true patriot. His poems sing of the praises of the United States of America and the cause of democracy. The poet's love of his country grew from his faith that Americans might reach new worldly and spiritual heights. Whitman wrote: "The chief reason for the being of the United States of America is to bring about the common good will of all mankind, the solidarity of the world." Whitman began working on "Leaves of Grass" in 1848. This collection of poetry was so unusual that no publisher would publish it. In 1855, he published it himself. The edition contained only 12 poems. In the preface, Whitman said: "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem." Between 1855 and his death, Whitman published several revised and enlarged editions of his book. He believed that "Leaves of Grass" had grown with his own emotional and intellectual development. " Song of Myself, " is considered Whitman's greatest. It is a lyric poem told through the joyful experiences of the narrator. Sometimes the narrator,"I," is the poet himself. In other passages, "I" speaks for the human race, the universe, or a specific character being dramatized. Like all Whitman's major poems, "Song of Myself " contains symbols. For example, in the poem he describes grass as a symbol of life "the babe of vegetation," "the handkerchief of the Lord." Whitman wrote "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" on the death of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln died in April, springtime-a time of rebirth in nature. Whitman says that each spring the blooming lilac will remind him not only of the death of Lincoln, but also of the eternal return to life. "O Captain! My Captain!," another poem on Lincoln's death, is Whitman's most popular poem, but differs from his others in rhyme and rhythm. Whitman wrote in a form similar to "thought-rhythm." This form is found in Old Testament poetry. It is also found in sacred books of India, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, which Whitman knew in translation. The rhythm of his lines suggests the rise and fall of the sea he loved so much. This structure is better suited to expressing emotion than to logical discussion. In general, Whitman's poetry is idealistic and romantic. Walt Whitman's Life Walter Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, New York. While he grew up in Brooklyn, he frequently returned to his roots. He worked as a printer and journalist in the New York City area. He wrote articles on politics, civics, and the arts. Whitman loved New York City and loved the crowds. He attended debates, the theater, concerts, lectures, and political meetings. He often rode on stagecoaches and ferries just to talk with people. During the Civil War, Whitman was a volunteer assistant in the military hospitals in Washington, D.C. After the war, he worked in several government departments until he suffered a stroke in 1873. He spent the rest of his life in Camden, N.J., where he continued to write poems and articles. Whitman believed that the vitality and variety of his life reflected the vitality and variety of America. Most critics accept this view of the man and his poems and some insist he was a powerful and unusual lyric poet.



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