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Leaves of Grass: The "Death-Bed" Edition (Modern Library Series)

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Overview

Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as "disgraceful." Ralph Waldo Emerson found it "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet produced." Published at the author's expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass inaugurated a new voice and style into American letters and gave expression to an optimistic, bombastic vision that took the nation as its subject. Unlike many other editions of Leaves of Grass, which reproduce various short, ...
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Angelo, Valenti 1977 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. Audience: General/trade.

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Leaves of Grass

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Overview

Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as "disgraceful." Ralph Waldo Emerson found it "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet produced." Published at the author's expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass inaugurated a new voice and style into American letters and gave expression to an optimistic, bombastic vision that took the nation as its subject. Unlike many other editions of Leaves of Grass, which reproduce various short, early versions, this Modern Library Paperback Classics "Death-bed" edition presents everything Whitman wrote in its final form, and includes newly commissioned notes.

Comprises all of Whitman's poems written following the arrangement of the edition of 1891-1892.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A selection of the writings of Whitman from the volumes , , , , , , , , , , , , and others. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"Whitman's best poems have that permanent quality of being freshly painted, of not being dulled by the varnish of the years."
—Malcolm Cowley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394604107
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/12/1977
  • Series: Poets Series
  • Pages: 423

Meet the Author

Before the age of thirty-six there was no sign that Walt Whitman would become even a minor literary figure, let alone the major poetic voice of an emerging America. Born in 1819 on Long Island, he was the second son of a carpenter and contractor. His formal schooling ended at age eleven, when he was apprenticed to a printer in Brooklyn. He became a journeyman printer in 1835 and spent the next two decades as a printer, free-lance writer, and editor in New York. In 1855, at his own expense, he published the twelve long poems, without titles, that make up the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The book, with its unprecedented mixture of the mystical and the earthy, was received with puzzlement or silence, except by America's most distinguished writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman lost no time in preparing a second edition, adding "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and nineteen other new poems in 1856. With the third edition (1860), the book had tripled in size. Whitman would go on adding to it and revising it for the rest of his life. Whitman's poetry slowly achieved a wide readership in America and in England. He was praised by Swinburne and Tennyson, and visited by Oscar Wilde. He suffered a stroke in 1873 and spent the remainder of his life in Camden, New Jersey. His final edition of Leaves of Grass appeared in 1892, the year of his death.

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Read an Excerpt

ONE'S-SELF I SING.


One's-self I sing, a simple separate person,

Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.


Of physiology from top to toe I sing,

Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,

The Female equally with the Male I sing.


Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,

Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine,

The Modern Man I sing.



AS I PONDER'D IN SILENCE.


As I ponder' in silence,

Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,

A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,

Terrible in beauty, age, and power,

The genius of poets of old lands,

As to me directing like flame its eyes,

With finger pointing to many immortal songs,

And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,

Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?

And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,

The making of perfect soldiers.


Be it so,
then I answer'd,

I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,

Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and retreat, victory deferr&rsquod and wavering,

(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field the world,

For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,

Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,

I above all promote brave soldiers.




IN CABIN'D SHIPS AT SEA.


In cabin'd ships atsea,

The boundless blue on every side expanding,

With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,

Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine,

Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,

She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,

By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,

In full rapport at last.


Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts,

Here not the land, firm land, alone appears,
may then by them be said,

The sky o'arches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,

We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,

The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,

The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,

The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,

And this is ocean's poem.



Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,

You not a reminiscence of the land alone,

You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not whither, yet ever full of faith,

Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!

Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it here in every leaf;)

Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the imperious waves,

Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every sea,

This song for mariners and all their ships.

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Table of Contents

Introduction and Celebration vii
Suggestions for Further Reading xxxix
Facsimile Frontispiece 2
Facsimile Title Page 3
Whitman's Preface 5
Song of Myself 28
A Song for Occupations 97
To Think of Time 109
The Sleepers 117
I Sing the Body Electric 129
Faces 137
Song of the Answerer 142
Europe: The 72d and 73d Years of These States 146
A Boston Ballad 148
There Was a Child Went Forth 151
Who Learns My Lesson Complete? 154
Great Are the Myths 156
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Reading Group Guide

1. Critic and poet Lewis Turco maintains that, contrary to the otherwise nearly universally accepted view, Whitman is not America's most innovative and important poet. He did nothing new, Turco argues, and "the level of his competence was not very high-he retained his poor ear throughout his life; his poems are too long, too disorganized, too pompous, too repetitious, too boring." Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

2. Although Leaves of Grass might appear to be an amorphous, unstructured mass (as Turco suggests above), Whitman spent nearly forty years carefully revising it, reordering the poems, deleting poems or sections of poems, and adding new poems and cycles. He insisted that there was an overall unity and structure to the book (and stated that the ninth and final edition, the "Death-bed" edition published in 1892, was the last word on it). Do you perceive an overall unity in the book? Is there a discernible structure to it?

3. Walt Whitman is often called the poet of democracy and of America; one of the best-known and most often quoted poems in Leaves of Grass is "For You O Democracy" in "Calamus." How does Leaves of Grass answer the question of what democracy is and what it means to be an American?

4. In The Good Gray Poet, one of the first biographies of Whitman, William Douglas O'Connor explained in words that Whitman himself acknowledged that one of the primary purposes of Leaves of Grass was to save
sexuality "from the keeping of blackguards and debauchees, to which it has been abandoned"-by which he meant rescue it from libertines, whose dissolute behavior made sex disrespectable tomiddle-class Victorian sensibilities. One American reviewer of the 1855 edition described Whitman as having "a degrading, beastly sensuality, that is fast rotting the core of all the social virtues" and a British reviewer asked, "Is it possible that the most prudish nation on earth will adopt a poet whose indecencies stink in the nostrils?" How is sexuality represented in Leaves of Grass?

5. There are many recurrent themes, symbols, images, and motifs in Leaves of Grass as a whole, as well as in particular poems and cycles of poems. Consider, for example, the following: a) The use of the star, the lilac, and the bird in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (What do they symbolize and how do they relate to each other? How do they contribute to the structure of what many critics consider to be one of the finest poems ever written in the English language?); b) The recurrence of the word "mother" or "mothers" (more than one hundred times) in the book; and c) the repeated invocation of odor, fragrance, and perfume throughout the book.

6. The Civil War was a defining event in Walt Whitman's life, and the poems in "Drum-Taps" are a testimony to the impact the time he spent as a nurse to both Northern and Southern soldiers in the army hospitals of Washington, D. C. had on him. What view of the war is expressed by the narrative persona, and does the perspective of the persona change over the course of the cycle of poems?

7. Discuss the following stylistic aspects of Leaves of Grass: a) lists and catalogues; b) the extensive use of parentheses; c) parallelism (the development of rhythm via a repetition of ideas and sentences rather than through accents and syllables); d) the repetition of sounds and words; and e) punctuation.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 234 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(156)

4 Star

(24)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(23)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 236 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Dont buy this

    This book is not formatted at all. Each poem is one long paragraph, and there are not even extra returns after each poem; they all run together. It may not cost much, but it's still a waste of money.

    14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing

    This had basically all of his works. He is a great writer.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Overshadowed by Whitman's Eccentric Persona

    Walt Whitman is one of those people whose public image or persona has quite overshadowed his work, and for good reason--his work does not fully live up to his reputation as America's national poet. Granted, a minority of Whitman's work is brilliant in every respect (Drum-Taps and In Memory of President Lincoln come to mind), and his remarkably original style has changed the nature of free verse poetry forever, but much of his material is, well, simply average. On occasion he verges on rambling, stuck somewhere between Emerson/Thoreau and Tolstoy, trying to formulate a coherent philosophy but all the while attempting to believe in everything--thus believing in nothing. At times, his laid-back "acceptance for all" theory borders on contradictory. This is disappointing in light of his best work, which demonstrates his firm grasp of Life and Humanity. If you like Whitman's cadence verse style, as I do, I recommend Allen Ginsberg and Carl Sandburg--the later of whom, in my opinion, blows Whitman out of the water.

    3 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an Awesome Collection

    This is an awesome collection to have in one's own library.

    Everyone should own Whitman works, along with Ohio Blue Tips by Jeanne E. Clark, The Photos In The Closet by Daniel E. Lopez, and works by Alison Townsend.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 7, 2011

    -THE BEST OF THE BEST!-

    Walt started it all and still continues to show his relevance with every passing decade. A life time poet who will always have my heart!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Highly recommended. I wish you weirdos who

    Get off on wasting space here communicating with each other would do us all a favor. Get a job. Get a life. Get an education. You all sound like a bunch of losers.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Amy

    So r u all like brothers or wht :)

    1 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Alesh

    He yells NO STUPID GATORS GO BUCK EYES

    1 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Brandon

    Hot babe in the house im brandon.

    1 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Damion

    Damion-they football game is on.

    1 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Alesh

    No dude the gators should be the weeners. He cracks up laughing.

    1 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Hunter

    He laughs at brandon and falls off the couch-Hunter.

    1 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 5, 2011

    recommended for poetry lovers

    while the formatting is awful it doesn't necessarily detract from the outstanding poetry that Walt W. has left us to ponder and love!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Phenomenal!

    Karen Karbiener was my professor at Columbia and taught the American Literature class, Walt Whitman. Karen was by far the best professor I had and will never forget this class and this book! The book is profoundly educational and tremendously stimulating!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an Awesome Collection

    This is an awesome collection to have in one's own library.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 30, 2014

    I've always compared poetry to music lyrics. And like many albu

    I've always compared poetry to music lyrics. And like many albums, often there are just one or two songs which are really, really good. This book fits that model for me. It has a few very memorable poems, but several which, while not bad, require more work to derive the meaning. Still, for anyone interested beautiful language artfully arranged to create mental landscapes, this book is for you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    LeafClan nursery

    HawkThorn

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2014

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    Enjoyable

    Very nice reading when time permits me to think upon the common events of life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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