Whitman's Leaves of Grass turns 150
July 4, 2005 6:55 AM   Subscribe

"I CELEBRATE myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.."
Walt Whitman's Leaves Of Grass is 150 years old today.
"Great is life . . and real and mystical . . wherever and whoever,
Great is death . . . . Sure as life holds all parts together, death holds all parts together;
Sure as the stars return again after they merge in the light, death is great as life."
posted by peacay (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

The 4th July 1855 Leaves of Grass complete text

Further contemporary criticisms

Recovered notebook collection

The development of Leaves of Grass

Worshipping Walt

Conversations with Walt

Sesquicentennial announcements
"Whatever severity of criticism they may challenge for their rude ingenuousness, and their frequent divergence into the domain of the fantastic, the taste of not over dainty fastidiousness will discern much of the essential spirit of poetry beneath an uncouth and grotesque embodiment." (cite) [previous mefi]
posted by peacay at 6:57 AM on July 4, 2005

What a beautiful gift this July 4th 2005. Thank you peacay.
posted by nickyskye at 7:09 AM on July 4, 2005

How most living Americans know of Leaves of Grass:
posted by orthogonality at 7:09 AM on July 4, 2005

How most living Americans know of Leaves of Grass Pt. II

"Here lies... Walt Whitman. Aaargh! Damn you Walt Whitman! I... hate... you... Walt...
freakin... Whitman, leaves of grass my ass!"

- Homer Simpson (from the episode where Homer finds his long last mother after mistaking Walt Whitman's grave stone for hers...)
posted by fairmettle at 7:17 AM on July 4, 2005

Whitman and The Simpsons in one day... *happy sigh* My holiday is now complete.
posted by kiridamo at 7:27 AM on July 4, 2005

What's with the Monica Lewinsky hijack? Don't most Americans know WW from high school English classes? Do they not still teach Frost and Lindsay, Whitman and Guest? Argggh.

Whenever I teach writing, I try to include a Whitman selection, and that includes when I teach professional and technical writing.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:49 AM on July 4, 2005

Oh. And Many, Many Thanks, Peacay.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2005

A stupendous post is this, gentle as a breeze, happy as a clam.
posted by moonbird at 7:54 AM on July 4, 2005

Why would you bury a great poet in Camden?
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:02 AM on July 4, 2005

If ever there was a poem teeming with whole life mantras, this is it.

A personal favorite:
"There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now."

posted by phylum sinter at 8:14 AM on July 4, 2005

It avails not, time nor place - distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
posted by ori at 8:15 AM on July 4, 2005

Don't miss the Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:31 AM on July 4, 2005

Walt Whitman - Camden's Poet
posted by ericb at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2005

"Camden was originally an accident, but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns."
posted by ericb at 8:47 AM on July 4, 2005

I'm going to sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. Nice post, peacay.
posted by goatdog at 9:03 AM on July 4, 2005

Wonderful post (and comments!). Thanks!
posted by scody at 9:36 AM on July 4, 2005

How most living Americans know of Leaves of Grass Pt. III

Is it, like, a book about weed?
posted by matteo at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2005

I had such a crush on the professor who taught my Whitman class. He used to take us outside so we could read aloud under a giant tree. Great guarded duplicate eggs, was that man sexy.

I recently looked him up on ratemyprofessors.com. Apparently the girls now find him "creepy."

posted by jrossi4r at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2005

Incompossible, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them, but not enough for both - as Walt Whitman's poetry and God's mercy to man.

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

(a dissenting opinion)
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:14 PM on July 4, 2005

Walt Whitman!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:51 PM on July 4, 2005

totally cool, monju_bosatsu...thanks!
posted by brandz at 7:22 PM on July 4, 2005

to take part in the great mèlée, both for victory's prize itself and to do some good

There is a gem in almost every sentence of his. What a privilege to read his splendid, enlightened writing.
posted by nickyskye at 7:24 PM on July 4, 2005

Thanks for this. Sadly, the two people I mentioned it to today had no idea what Leaves Of Grass was, and only a vague inkling of who Whitman was.
posted by cali at 7:26 PM on July 4, 2005

Reading Whitman made me say an old-fashionedism, "splendid", LOL. It's delightful when a great writer gets in one's head and heart and life is better for it.

Zurishaddai, I loved A Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads. Thanks for the tip. It was so interesting that in spite of receiving such negative criticism in his own day, Whitman knew his poem would be enjoyed 100 years hence (another old-fashionedism). He was visionary and there is something so personal about his voice in his writing, it's as if he were right here, now. It comforts me to know he was born, that he lived and felt deeply and wrote the way he did.
posted by nickyskye at 7:40 PM on July 4, 2005

Hey, ori beat me to the my favorite Whitman poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” Quoted my favorite part, too.

I hated Whitman when I was in High School. But when I grew up a little and read him later, I realized he was one of my favoritist poets.

And a true populist. A great American poet, and a great human being.

Thanks for this, peacay.
posted by teece at 9:59 PM on July 4, 2005

This post has made me sad that it has been such a long time since I have read Leaves of Grass. What first drew me to Whitman was When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd, which was introduced to me not as a poem, but as evidence of a more prurient allegation. Regardless of how, Whitman did quickly become my favourite American poet; other poets may be more capable of creating emotion but I can think of none that create beauty in the fashion he did.
posted by herting at 2:00 AM on July 5, 2005

Yay peacay!

My favorite whitman story is about how now in his original new jersey neighborhood they a *walt whitman shopping mall* with _leaves_ extracts postered all over the place. Have never actually seen this, but one snobby aquaintance says it is now one of those malls that long ago saw its best day.

My second favorite whitman story is about a fellow I know who is from Bangladesh who did one of the first _leaves_translations into Bangali and had to go through about ten iterations with the local censors because his translation was overly erotically graphic.

An excerpt:

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks
to his own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick
of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds
the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it
may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub
for the wheel'd universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed
before a million universes.

And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God
and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God
not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
posted by bukvich at 9:44 AM on July 5, 2005

Thanks for this post and set of links.
posted by OmieWise at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2005

Walt Whitman Mall. (Yay Long Island...?)

Agreed, lame.

posted by sdrawkcab at 8:05 PM on July 5, 2005

Great site you just linked, sdrawkcab.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:00 AM on July 6, 2005

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