Like many Americans, Whitman and his family daily checked the lists of wounded in the newspapers, and one day in December the family was jolted by the appearance of the name of " G. Whitmore" on the casualty roster from Fredericksburg. Futilely searching for George in the nearly forty Washington hospitals, he finally decided to take a government boat and army-controlled train to the battlefield at Fredericksburg to see if George was still there.
Now a generation of young American males, the very males on which he had staked the future of democracy, were literally being disarmed, amputated, killed. By running errands for them, writing letters for them, encircling them in his arms, Whitman tried, the best he could, to make them whole again. He had fully anticipated that he would return to New York after determining that George was safe, but, after telegraphing his mother and the rest of the family that he had found George, he decided to stay with his brother for a few days.
During this time he got to know the young soldiers, both Union and Confederate he talked to a number of Southern prisoners of war. He assisted in the burial of the dead still lying on the bloody battlefield, where on December 13 there had been 18, Northern and Southern troops killed or wounded and where, the next day, Robert E. Although Whitman had already written some of the poems that he would eventually publish in his Civil War book Drum-Taps notably the "recruitment" poems like "Beat!
Young man: I think this face of yours the face of my dead Christ! The journal entry and poem offer a glimpse into how Whitman began restructuring his poetic project after the Civil War began. He was still writing a "new Bible" here, re-experiencing the Crucifixion in Fredericksburg. And, for Whitman, the massive slaughter of young soldier-Christs would create for all those who survived the war an obligation to construct a nation worthy of their great sacrifice. The America that Whitman would write of after the Civil War would be a more chastened, less innocent nation, a nation that had gone through its baptism in blood and one that would from now on be tested against the stern measure of this bloodshed.
Whitman visited him regularly in the battlefield hospital and then continued to visit him when the soldier was transferred to a Washington hospital. We cannot be certain when Whitman made his decision to stay in Washington, D. Like virtually all of the abrupt changes in his life, this one came with no planning, no advance notice, no preparation. He had gone to New Orleans on a similar spur-of-the-moment decision, just as he had suddenly quit teaching, just as he had packed up and gone to Boston, and just as he would years later decide overnight to settle in Camden, New Jersey.
He was a profoundly unsettled person, who seemed able to shuck expected obligations and even relationships without much regret: he existed, as he said, on a kind of "Open Road": "The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. I will scatter myself among men and women as I go":. One day Whitman simply left Brooklyn and New York and his family home to find his brother,and he never really came back. Perhaps the decision was made while he was in the field hospital, nursing the wounded and developing his relationship with the young Mississippi soldier; it was then that he wrote to his mother and told her he might seek employment for awhile in Washington, and it was then that he wrote to Emerson to ask for letters of recommendation to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, who were both acquaintances of Emerson.
While the wounded were being moved from a train to a steamboat for the trip up the Potomac, Whitman wandered among them, writing down their messages to their families, promising to send them, comforting the soldiers with his calm and concern. Perhaps by the time he got to Washington, determined to stay a few days in order to visit wounded soldiers from Brooklyn, he already knew at some level that he would have to remain there for the duration of the war.
Many referred to Whitman as "Old Man," and his presence was for some of the young men avuncular, for some paternal, and, for almost all, magical. Though he admired the Christian Commission, an agency organized by several churches that recruited volunteers to help in the hospitals, Whitman acted independently. He had nothing but contempt for the United States Sanitary commission, the governmental body charged with nursing the soldiers and repairing them so they could return to battle: to Whitman, these agents kept their distance from the soldiers and worked primarily for pay.
He always insisted that he gained more from the soldiers than they received from him; he considered those years of hospital service "the greatest privilege and satisfaction. To better support his hospital work, Whitman began seeking more remunerative employment and pounded the pavement in Washington, trying to exploit every connection he had in order to find a good job.
It was as if the capital had become a metaphor of the nation itself, half-built and in a struggle to determine whether it would end in fulfillment or destruction. The U. The wrecked bodies dispersed among the displays were what "progress" had brought, the result of new inventions that had created modern warfare. It is not possible to know how many soldiers Whitman actually nursed during his years in Washington, but the number was certainly in the tens of thousands Whitman estimated he visited "from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick".
Walking the wards was for him like walking America: every bed contained a representative of a different region, a different city or town, a different way of life. He loved the varied accents and the diverse physiognomies. Among the black soldiers, wounded or sick, and in the contraband camps, I also took my way whenever in their neighborhood, and did what I could for them.
And he sought to dispense this medicine not only to soldiers on his hospital visits but to all Americans through his books. He gathered these poems along with the few he had written just before the war the ones that Thayer and Eldridge has originally planned to publish as Banner at Day-Break and worked on combining them in a book called Drum-Taps , the title evoking both the beating of the drums that accompanied soldiers into battle as well as the beating out of "Taps," the death march sounded at the burial of soldiers originally played on the drums instead of the trumpet.
The poems were so different from any that had appeared in Leaves , in fact, that Whitman originally assumed they could not be joined in the same book with those earlier poems. It would be a long, slow process that would eventually allow the absorption of Drum-Taps into Leaves of Grass. As the war entered its final year, Whitman was facing physical and emotional exhaustion.
He marched with him and gave him news from home. It would be the last time Whitman would see his brother before George was captured by Confederate troops after a battle in the fall. During the early summer, Whitman began to complain of a sore throat, dizziness, and a "bad feeling" in his head. Physician friends urged him to check into one of the hospitals he had been visiting, and they finally convinced him to go back to New York for a rest. Whitman took his manuscript of Drum-Taps with him to Brooklyn, hoping to publish it himself while he was there.
Soon after he left Washington, the capital was attacked by the Confederates and many thought it was about to be captured; Whitman missed the most terrifying months of the war in the District of Columbia. In Brooklyn, Whitman could not stop doing what had now become both a routine and a reason for his existence: he visited wounded soldiers in New York-area hospitals.
He wrote some more articles for the New York Times and other papers, and he took care of pressing family matters, including the commitment of his increasingly unstable brother Jesse to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum where he would die six years later. Though Whitman did not then know it, George had been sent to the Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, and would also serve time in military prisons in Salisbury, North Carolina, and finally in Danville, Virginia.
By the beginning of , Whitman was very anxious to return to Washington, which he now considered to be his home. Whitman carried his Drum-Taps manuscript back to Washington, hoping that his increased income might allow him to publish the book. He moved to a new apartment, run by what he called a "secesh" landlady, and he began work in the Indian Bureau; his desk was in the U. Patent Office Building, which he had been visiting when it was used as a temporary hospital. As a clerk there, he met delegations of various Indian tribes from the West, and, just as he had come to know the geographical range of America through his hospital visits, so now he came to experience Native Americans.
He had included Indians in his poems of America, cataloguing "the red aborigines" in "Starting from Paumanok," for example, celebrating the way they "charg[ed] the water and the land with names" thus Whitman always preferred the name "Paumanok" to "Long Island" and often argued that aboriginal names for American places were always superior to names imported from Europe.
Whitman got a furlough from the Indian Bureau so that he could go see George, and, while in Brooklyn, he arranged with a New York printer for the publication of Drum - Taps. It is ironic that Whitman, who spent most of the final two years of the war in the capital, was not there for its most traumatic and memorable events: he was back in New York during the main Confederate assault on Washington, and he was in New York again when the capital celebrated the end of the war and then mourned the loss of the president. My Captain!
Whitman therefore compiled a Sequel to Drum-Taps and had it printed up when he went back to Washington. He dated the Sequel , offering another significantly hyphenated moment. Just as his Leaves marked the division between a nation at peace and a nation rent by war, so now did the sequel mark the reunification, a country moving from a year of war to the difficult first year of its reunified peace, from the horror of disintegration to the challenge of reconstruction.
In joining Drum-Taps and Sequel , Whitman created a book whose physical form echoed the challenges the postwar nation was facing as it entered the stormy period of Reconstruction. Whitman, too, was entering a period of poetic reconstruction, searching for ways to absorb the personal and national trauma of the Civil War into Leaves of Grass.
Whitman continued visiting soldiers in Washington hospitals during the first years following the war, as the number of hospitals gradually decreased and only the most difficult cases remained, but he now focused his attention increasingly on this single young former artilleryman from the South. They rode the streetcars together, drank at the Union Hotel bar, took long walks outside the city, and quoted poetry to each other Whitman recited Shakespeare, Doyle limericks.
Only in did the Doyle-Whitman relationship encounter severe problems. Soon after Whitman had met Doyle, he revised his Calamus sequence and removed the darker poems that expressed despair at being abandoned. But in , those same dark emotions reappeared, though somehow this time Whitman and his partner managed to work their way through the trouble. They never lived together, though Walt dreamed of doing so, and, while their relationship would never regain the intensity it had in the mids, Doyle and Whitman continued to correspond and Doyle visited Whitman regularly for the next two decades after the poet moved to Camden, New Jersey.
Just when Whitman was feeling secure in his government employment, all hell broke loose. In May, , a new Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan of Iowa, was sworn in and immediately set out to clean up his department, issuing a directive to abolish non-essential positions and to dismiss any employee whose "moral character" was questionable.
On June 20, Whitman along with a number of other Interior Department employees received a dismissal notice. Hubley Ashton, who in turn talked with Harlan, only to find that not only was Harlan dead set against rescinding the dismissal order, he was ready to prevent Whitman from getting work in any other governmental agency. In August and September of , he took a leave from his job to go to New York and arrange for the printing of a new edition of Leaves. The Leaves of Grass is the most carelessly printed and the most chaotic of all the editions. Whitman had problems with the typesetters, whose work was filled with errors.
He bound the book in five distinct formats, some with only the new edition of Leaves of Grass , some with Leaves plus Drum-Taps , some with Leaves , Drum-Taps , and Sequel , some with all of these along with another new cluster called Songs Before Parting , and some with only Leaves and Songs Before Parting. He was obviously confused about what form his book should take. By literally sewing the printed pages of Drum-Taps and Sequel into the back of some of the issues, he creates a jarring textual effect, as pagination and font fracture while he adds his poems of war and division to his poems of absorption and nondiscrimination.
Leaves of Grass , like the nation, was now entering a long period of reconstruction. Whitman would keep rearranging, pruning, and adding to Leaves in order to try to solve the structural problems so evident in the edition. By , Leaves took a radically new shape when the fifth edition appeared known as the edition because of the varying dates on the title page, but actually first printed in This edition contains some revealing clusters of poems that appear here and then disappear in the much better known arrangement; in the edition, "Marches now the War is Over" and "Songs of Insurrection" are two clusters that capture the charged historical moment of Reconstruction that this edition responds to.
Instead, if a poem might offend too many readers or provoke censors, he omitted it altogether. Rossetti regarded Whitman as one the great poets of the English language and hoped that this selection of poems would augur a complete printing in England. Poems by Walt Whitman , reprinting approximately half of the Leaves of Grass , was critical for Whitman since it made him English friends who later would help sustain him financially and who would advance his reputation on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Whitman published Democratic Vistas and Passage to India both works carried the date on their title pages. The title poem moves from the material to the spiritual.
Much of "Passage to India" celebrates the highly publicized work of engineers, especially the suggestive global linking accomplished by the transcontinental railroad, the Suez Canal, and the Atlantic cable. For Whitman, modern material accomplishments were most important as means to better understand the "aged fierce enigmas" at the heart of spiritual questions.
On January 23, he suffered a stroke; in February his sister-in-law Mattie wife of his brother Jeff died of cancer; in May his beloved mother began to fail. He returned to Washington at the beginning of June, hoping to resume his job. But by the middle of the month he was back in Camden to stay, moving into a working-class neighborhood with his brother George a pipe inspector and his wife Lou.
Throughout the Camden years, despite his physical decline, the poet published steadily. Not long after his stroke, for example, he expanded and reworked journalism and notebook entries in composing Memoranda During the War The prose in this volume is taut, concise, detailed, and unflinching. Although the Civil War received more press coverage than any previous war, Whitman worried that its true import would be lost, that what he called "the real war" would never be remembered.
He lamented the lack of attention to the common soldiers and to the fortitude and love he had seen in his many visits with soldiers in the hospitals. In addition to his literary friends, Whitman continued to maintain key emotional ties with working-class men, often substantially younger men. Harry Stafford displaced Doyle as his boy, his "darling son. We know that the poet and Harry wrestled together leaving John Burroughs dismayed at the way they "cut up like two boys" ; that a friendship ring given by Whitman to Stafford went back and forth numerous times with anguished rhetoric as the relationship developed; and that they shared a room together when traveling.
Whitman and Stafford also discussed attractive women as the poet had with Peter Doyle. After Stafford married in , the two men maintained a friendly relationship. As was the case over twenty years earlier when Thayer and Eldridge offered him respectable Boston publication, Whitman could now anticipate the benefits of high visibility, good distribution, and institutional validation a paradoxical idea, of course, for a renegade poet.
Once again, however, things soon went awry. Oliver Stevens, the Boston district attorney, wrote to Osgood on March 1, "We are of the opinion that this book is such a book as brings it within the provisions of the Public Statutes respecting obscene literature and suggest the propriety of withdrawing the same from circulation and suppressing the editions thereof. Intriguingly, the "Calamus" section and other poems treating male-male love raised no concern, perhaps because the male-male poems infrequently venture beyond hand-holding and hugging while the male-female poems are frank about copulation.
Rees Welsh printed around 6, copies of the book, and sales, initially at least, were brisk. In the year Leaves was banned in Boston, Whitman wrote "Memorandum at a Venture," which argues that the "current prurient, conventional treatment of sex is the main formidable obstacle" to the advancement of women in politics, business, and social life. Lawrence, for one, claimed that Whitman reduced women to wombs.
Leaves of Grass clearly emphasized motherhood, but Whitman valued other roles for women as well. In fact, the women he most celebrated were those who challenged traditional ways, including Margaret Fuller, Frances Wright, George Sand, Delia Bacon, and others. Many wrote him letters of appreciation for the liberating value of his poetry. Specimen Days was issued as a prose counterpart to the Leaves of Grass. Whitman described it as the "most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed," and, as an autobiography, the book is anomalous.
Whitman sheds little light on what remains a central mystery: the development of the first edition of Leaves of Grass. After a brief section on family background, Whitman moves rapidly past his "long foreground" to focus instead on the war relying heavily on material used in Memoranda. Aware that no other major writer could match his direct and extensive connection to the war, he continues to argue that the hospitals were central to the war just as the war was definitional for American experience.
He also describes his trip to attend the quarter-centennial celebration of the Kansas settlement and to visit his brother Jeff in St. Whitman journeyed as far as Denver and the Rockies, finding in the landscape a grandeur that matched his earlier imaginings of it and a ruggedness that justified his approach to American poetry. Consistently in Specimen Days , Whitman kept his standing in the national pantheon in mind.
In sections such as "My Tribute to Four Poets" and the accounts of the deaths of Emerson, Longfellow, and Carlyle, Whitman seeks to establish a newly magnanimous position in relation to his key predecessors. Showing a generosity rarely displayed in his criticism before, he now praises fellow poets he once derided as "jinglers, and snivellers, and fops. In the s, as Whitman was compiling authoritative versions of his writings and overseeing various accounts of his life, he was also putting his domestic arrangements in better order.
With money saved from royalties from the edition of Leaves combined with a loan from publisher George W. Childs, the poet bought "a little old shanty of my own. Lacking a furnace and in need of repairs, the two-story frame house at Mickle Street suited Whitman well, he said. His personal room quickly took on a distinctive aura: many visitors noted how the poet resided in a sea of chaotic papers.
Typically, new material appeared in separate publications first, as, for example, was the case with November Boughs , a volume containing sixty-four new poems gathered under the title "Sands at Seventy" and various prose works previously published in periodicals. Whitman later printed thirty-one poems from the book in "Good-Bye my Fancy. Whitman lacked the poetic power of his early years, but he was still capable of writing engaging poems such as "Osceola," "A Twilight Song," and "To the Sun-Set Breeze. Whitman seemed to endure his final months through sheer force of will. He was in fact very sick, beset by an array of ailments.
For some time, he had been making preparations for the end. The large tomb was paid for in part by Whitman with money donated to him so that he could buy a house in the country and in part by Thomas Harned, one of his literary executors. In an earlier will of he had bequeathed his silver watch to Peter Doyle, but now, with Doyle largely absent from his life, he made changes, giving his gold watch to Traubel and a silver one to Harry Stafford. Whitman was nursed in his final illness by Frederick Warren Fritzinger "Warry" , a former sailor. The poet died on March 26, , his hand resting in that of Traubel.
The cause of death was miliary tuberculosis, with other contributing factors. The autopsy revealed that one lung had completely collapsed and the other was working only at one-eighth capacity; his heart was "surrounded by a large number of small abscesses and about two and half quarts of water. He emphatically rejected the "slanderous accusations that debauchery and excesses of various kinds caused or contributed to his break-down.
The responses have been varied, ranging from indictments to accolades. Poetic responses to Whitman sometimes fall into his cadences and in other ways mimic his style, but many poets have understood, with William Carlos Williams, that the only way to write like Whitman is to write unlike Whitman. To an unusual degree, however, his legacy has not been limited to the genre in which he made his fame.
Beyond poetry, Whitman has had an extensive and unpredictable impact on fiction, film, architecture, music, painting, dance, and other arts.
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Whitman has enjoyed great international renown. And Lits. Leonard C. George E. An unpublished dissertation. The title should be placed in quotation marks, not [italicized]. The name of the university may be shortened, as long as it remains unambiguous e. Johns Hopkins , p. Aarhus Copenhagen: Munksgaard, , p. Bonn Leipzig: privately printed, , p. New York: MLA, , p. In general, in citing a government document, indicate the agency first. The name of the agency may be abbreviated if the context makes it clear. The title of the publication [italicized] should follow immediately.
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Gulliver thus describes his encounter with the giant wasps of Brobdingnag:. I remember one morning when …, after I had lifted up one of my sashes and sat down at my table to eat a piece of sweet cake for my breakfast, above twenty wasps, allured by the smell, came flying into the room, humming louder than the drones of as many bagpipes. Some of them seized my cake and carried it piecemeal away; others flow about my head and face, confounding me with the noise and putting me in the utmost terror of their stings.