Leaves of Grass: The "Death-Bed" Edition (Modern Library Series) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as 'disgraceful.' And Ralph Waldo Emerson found Leaves of Grass 'the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed,' calling it a 'combination of the Bhagavad Gita and the New York Herald.' Published at the author's own expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass initially consisted of a preface, twelve untitled poems in free verse (including the work later titled 'Song of Myself' which ...
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Leaves of Grass: The

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Overview

Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as 'disgraceful.' And Ralph Waldo Emerson found Leaves of Grass 'the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed,' calling it a 'combination of the Bhagavad Gita and the New York Herald.' Published at the author's own expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass initially consisted of a preface, twelve untitled poems in free verse (including the work later titled 'Song of Myself' which Malcolm Cowley called 'one of the great poems of modern times'), and a now-famous portrait of a devil-may-care Walt Whitman in a workman's shirt. Over the next four decades,
Whitman continually expanded and revised the book as he took on the role of a workingman's bard who championed American nationalism, political democracy, contemporary progress, and unashamed sex. This volume, which contains 383 poems, is the final 'Deathbed Edition' published in 1892.

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: 9780679642084
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/31/2000
  • Series: Modern Library Series
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 706,800
  • File size: 607 KB

Meet the Author

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, near Huntington, Long Island, New York. His father--a farmer turned carpenter from whom Whitman acquired his freethinking intellectual and political attitudes--moved his wife and nine children to Brooklyn in 1823. The young Whitman attended public schools until the age of eleven, when he was apprenticed to a printer. In 1835 he became a journeyman printer and spent the next decade working as a compositor, freelance writer, editor, and itinerant schoolteacher. But Whitman's fortunes changed in 1846 when he was named editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. However his 'free soil' political beliefs cost him the editorship of the conservative paper two years later. Following his dismissal, Whitman traveled to New Orleans, where he was briefly editor of the New Orleans Crescent. Upon his return north in June 1848, he frequented the opera and museums, dabbled in politics, and immersed himself in the life of the streets. Although Whitman had earlier affected the mien of a dandy, he now dressed as a 'rough' and became prominent among the bohemian element of New York. But the poems and stories he published in these years showed no hint of his future greatness.

The next five years (1850-1855), while outwardly undramatic, proved to be the most important period--intellectually and spiritually--in the life of Walt Whitman the poet. During this time he read avidly and kept a series of notebooks. Two novels by Georges Sand helped fix the direction of Whitman's thinking. One was The Countess of Rudolstadt, which featured a wandering bard and prophet who expounded the new religion of Humanity. The other was The Journeyman Joiner, the story of a proletarian philosopher who works as a carpenter with his father but also devotes time to reading, giving advice on art, and freely sharing the affection of friends. But of course it was Ralph Waldo Emerson's summons (in 'The Poet') for a great American muse to step forward and celebrate the emerging nation that was pivotal to Whitman's future. On July 4, 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the volume of poems that for the next four decades would become his life's work, was placed on sale. Although some critics treated the volume as a joke and others were outraged by its unprecedented mixture of mysticism and earthiness, the book attracted the attention of some of the finest literary intelligences. 'I greet you at the beginning of a great career,' Emerson wrote to Whitman. 'I find incomparable things said incomparably well.'

The Civil War found Whitman working as an unofficial nurse to Northern and Southern soldiers in the army hospitals of Washington, D.C. His war poems appeared in Drum-Taps (1865) and were later incorporated into Leaves of Grass--as was 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom,' his elegy to the recently assassinated President Lincoln. After the war he became a clerk in the Indian Bureau of the Department of the Interior, from which he was shortly dismissed on the grounds that Leaves of Grass was an immoral book. (Whitman was soon reinstated in another government clerkship with the Department of Justice.) Despite such notoriety, his poetry slowly achieved a wide readership in America and in England, where he was praised by Swinburne and Tennyson. (D. H. Lawrence later referred to Whitman as the 'greatest modern poet,' and 'the greatest of Americans.'

Whitman suffered a stroke in 1873 and was forced to retire to Camden, New Jersey, where he would spend the last twenty years of his life. There he continued to write poetry, and in 1881 the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass was published to generally favorable reviews. However, the book was soon banned in Boston on the grounds that it was 'obscene literature.' Whitman was in a precarious financial way in his remaining years, and such writers as Mark Twain, Henry James, and Robert Louis Stevenson contributed to his support. Rich admirers kept him supplied with oysters and champagne (he was fond of both). Whitman even received a visitation from Oscar Wilde, who later reported that 'the good gray poet' made no effort to conceal his homosexuality from him. ('The kiss of Walt Whitman,' Wilde said, 'is still on my lips')

In January 1892 the final 'Death-bed Edition' of Leaves of Grass appeared on sale, and Whitman's life's work was complete. He died two months later on the evening of March 26, 1892, and was buried four days afterward at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. 'Most of the great poets are impersonal,' Whitman once wrote of Leaves of Grass. 'I am personal. . . . In my poems, all revolves around, concentrates in, radiates from myself. I have but one central figure, the general human personality typified in myself. But my book compels, absolutely necessitates, every reader to transpose himself or herself into the central position, and become the living fountain, actor, experiencer himself or herself, of every page, every aspiration, every line.'
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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 at sea,

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 to middle-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.




From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 235 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(158)

4 Star

(23)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(23)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 235 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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 3 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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Amy

    So r u all like brothers or wht :)

    1 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012

    Alesh

    He yells NO STUPID GATORS GO BUCK EYES

    1 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2014

    LeafClan nursery

    HawkThorn

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2014

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  • 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
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Cocoa POST YOU LITTLE BI<_>TCH

    She giggles at hid blushing. "Aww.. but, cmon. It sounded serious. How could you forget?"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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