Leaves of Grassby Walt Whitman
As Malcolm Cowley says in his Introduction, the first edition of Leaves of Grass "might be called the buried masterpiece of American writing," for it exhibits "Whitman at his best, Whitman at his freshest in vision and boldest in language, Whitman transformed by a new experience." Cowley has taken the first edition from its narrow circulation among scholars,… See more details below
As Malcolm Cowley says in his Introduction, the first edition of Leaves of Grass "might be called the buried masterpiece of American writing," for it exhibits "Whitman at his best, Whitman at his freshest in vision and boldest in language, Whitman transformed by a new experience." Cowley has taken the first edition from its narrow circulation among scholars, faithfully edited it, added his own Introduction and Whitman's original Introduction (which never appeared in any other edition during Whitman's life), and returned it to the common readership for whom the great poet intended it.
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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'd 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 hut 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'd 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.
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