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Title: Walt Whitman Yesterday and Today
Author: Legler, Henry Eduard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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WALT WHITMAN

_Yesterday & Today_

BY

HENRY EDUARD LEGLER



   CHICAGO
   BROTHERS OF THE BOOK
   1916


   COPYRIGHT 1916
   BY THE
   BROTHERS OF THE BOOK


The edition of this book consists of six hundred copies on this
Fabriano hand-made paper, and the type distributed.

This copy is Number 2


   TO DR. MAX HENIUS

   CONSISTENT HATER OF SHAMS
   ARDENT LOVER OF ALL OUTDOORS
   AND GENEROUS GIVER OF SELF
   IN GENUINE FELLOWSHIP

   THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED



_Walt Whitman: Yesterday & Today_



I


On a day about mid-year in 1855, the conventional literary world was
startled into indecorous behavior by the unannounced appearance of a
thin quarto sheaf of poems, in form and in tone unlike anything of
precedent issue. It was called Leaves of Grass, and there were but
twelve poems in the volume. No author's name appeared upon the title
page, the separate poems bore no captions, there was no imprint of
publisher. A steel engraving of a man presumably between thirty and
forty years of age, coatless, shirt flaringly open at the neck, and a
copyright notice identifying Walter Whitman with the publication,
furnished the only clues. Uncouth in size, atrociously printed, and
shockingly frank in the language employed, the volume evoked such a
tirade of rancorous condemnation as perhaps bears no parallel in the
history of letters. From contemporary criticisms might be compiled an
Anthology of Anathema comparable to Wagner's Schimpf-Lexicon, or the
Dictionary of Abuse suggested by William Archer for Henrik Ibsen. Some
of the striking adjectives and phrases employed in print would include
the following, as applied either to the verses or their author:

   The slop-bucket of Walt Whitman.
   A belief in the preciousness of filth.
   Entirely bestial.
   Nastiness and animal insensibility to shame.
   Noxious weeds.
   Impious and obscene.
   Disgusting burlesque.
   Broken out of Bedlam.
   Libidinousness and swell of self-applause.
   Defilement.
   Crazy outbreak of conceit and vulgarity.
   Ithyphallic audacity.
   Gross indecency.
   Sunken sensualist.
   Rotten garbage of licentious thoughts.
   Roots like a pig.
   Rowdy Knight Errant.
   A poet whose indecencies stink in the nostrils.
   Its liberty is the wildest license; its love the essence of
     the lowest lust!
   Priapus--worshipping obscenity.
   Rant and rubbish.
   Linguistic silliness.
   Inhumanly insolent.
   Apotheosis of Sweat.
   Mouthings of a mountebank.
   Venomously malignant.
   Pretentious twaddle.
   Degraded helot of literature.
   His work, like a maniac's robe, bedizened with fluttering
     tags of a thousand colors.
   Roaming, like a drunken satyr, with inflamed blood, through
     every field of lascivious thought.
   Muck of abomination.

A few quotations from the press of this period will serve to indicate
the general tenor of comment:

"The book might pass for merely hectoring and ludicrous, if it were
not something a great deal more offensive," observed the Christian
Examiner (Boston, 1856). "It openly deifies the bodily organs, senses,
and appetites in terms that admit of no double sense. The author is
'one of the roughs, a Kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, sensual, divine
inside and out. The scent of these armpits an aroma finer than
prayer.' He leaves 'washes and razors for foofoos,' thinks the talk
about virtue and vice only 'blurt,' he being above and indifferent to
both of them. These quotations are made with cautious delicacy. We
pick our way as cleanly as we can between other passages which are
more detestable."

In columns of bantering comment, after parodying his style of
all-inclusiveness, the United States Review (1855) characterizes Walt
Whitman thus: "No skulker or tea-drinking poet is Walt Whitman. He
will bring poems to fill the days and nights--fit for men and women
with the attributes of throbbing blood and flesh. The body, he
teaches, is beautiful. Sex is also beautiful. Are you to be put down,
he seems to ask, to that shallow level of literature and conversation
that stops a man's recognizing the delicious pleasure of his sex, or a
woman hers? Nature he proclaims inherently clean. Sex will not be put
aside; it is the great ordination of the universe. He works the muscle
of the male and the teeming fibre of the female throughout his
writings, as wholesome realities, impure only by deliberate intention
and effort. To men and women, he says, you can have healthy and
powerful breeds of children on no less terms than these of mine.
Follow me, and there shall be taller and richer crops of humanity on
the earth."

From Studies among the Leaves, printed in the Crayon (New York, 1856),
this extract may be taken: "With a wonderful vigor of thought and
intensity of perception, a power, indeed, not often found, Leaves of
Grass has no identity, no concentration, no purpose--it is barbarous,
undisciplined, like the poetry of a half-civilized people, and as a
whole useless, save to those miners of thought who prefer the metal in
its unworked state."

The New York Daily Times (1856) asks: "What Centaur have we here, half
man, half beast, neighing defiance to all the world? What conglomerate
of thought is this before us, with insolence, philosophy, tenderness,
blasphemy, beauty, and gross indecency tumbling in drunken confusion
through the pages? Who is this arrogant young man who proclaims
himself the Poet of the time, and who roots like a pig among a rotten
garbage of licentious thoughts?"

"Other poets," notes a writer in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1856),
"other poets celebrate great events, personages, romances, wars,
loves, passions, the victories and power of their country, or some
real or imagined incident--and polish their work, and come to
conclusions, and satisfy the reader. This poet celebrates natural
propensities in himself; and that is the way he celebrates all. He
comes to no conclusions, and does not satisfy the reader. He certainly
leaves him what the serpent left the woman and the man, the taste of
the Paradise tree of the knowledge of good and evil, never to be
erased again."

"He stalks among the dapper gentlemen of this generation like a
drunken Hercules amid the dainty dancers," suggested the Christian
Spiritualist (1856). "The book abounds in passages that cannot be
quoted in drawing rooms, and expressions that fall upon ears polite
with a terrible dissonance."

Nor was savage criticism in the years 1855 and 1856 limited to this
side of the Atlantic. The London Critic, in a caustic review, found
this the mildest comment that Whitman's verse warranted: "Walt
Whitman gives us slang in the place of melody, and rowdyism in the
place of regularity. * * * Walt Whitman libels the highest type of
humanity, and calls his free speech the true utterance of a man; we
who may have been misdirected by civilization, call it the expression
of a beast."

Noisy as was this babel of discordant voices, one friendly greeting
rang clear. Leaves of Grass had but just come from the press, when
Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his home in Concord, under date of July 21,
1855, wrote to the author in genuine fellowship:

"I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in
it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must
be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, and which
large perception only can inspire.

"I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have
had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a
little to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of
the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of
fortifying and encouraging."

Tracing the popular estimates of Walt Whitman through the next five
years, expressions of unmeasured disapproval similar to those quoted
may be found in periodicals and in the daily press, with here and
there grudging admission that despite unseemly tendencies, there is
evident originality and even genius in the pages of this unusual book.
In a comparatively temperate review, August 4, 1860, the Cosmopolite,
of Boston, while deploring that nature is treated here without
fig-leaves, declares the style wonderfully idiomatic and graphic,
adding: "In his frenzy, in the fire of his inspiration, are fused and
poured out together elements hitherto considered antagonistic in
poetry--passion, arrogance, animality, philosophy, brag, humility,
rowdyism, spirituality, laughter, tears, together with the most ardent
and tender love, the most comprehensive human sympathy which ever
radiated its divine glow through the pages of poems."

A contemporary of this date, the Boston Post, found nothing to
commend. "Grass," said the writer, making the title of the book his
text, "grass is the gift of God for the healthy sustenance of his
creatures, and its name ought not to be desecrated by being so
improperly bestowed upon these foul and rank leaves of the
poison-plants of egotism, irreverance, and of lust, run rampant and
holding high revel in its shame."

And the London Lancet, July 7, 1860, comments in this wise: "Of all
the writers we have ever perused, Walt Whitman is the most silly, the
most blasphemous, and the most disgusting. If we can think of any
stronger epithets, we will print them in a second edition."



II


What were these poems which excited such vitriolic epithets? Taking
both the editions of 1855 and of the year following, and indeed
including all of the four hundred poems bearing Whitman's authorship
in the three-quarters of a half-century during which his final volume
was in the making, scarcely half a dozen poems can be found which
could give offense to the most prudish persons. Nearly all of these
have been grouped, with some others, under the general sub-title
Children of Adam. There are poems which excite the risibles of some
readers, there are poems which read like the lists of a mail-order
house, and others which appear in spots to have been copied bodily
from a gazetteer. These, however, are more likely to provoke
good-natured banter than violent denunciatory passion. Even Ralph
Waldo Emerson, whose generous greeting and meed of praise in the
birth-year of Leaves of Grass will be recalled, in sending a copy of
it to Carlyle in 1860, and commending it to his interest, added: "And
after you have looked into it, if you think, as you may, that it is
only an auctioneer's inventory of a warehouse, you can light your pipe
with it."

Had Whitman omitted the few poems whose titles are given here,
doubtless a few readers would have found his formless verses either
curious or ludicrous, or merely stupid, and others would have passed
them by as unmeriting even casual attention. The poems which are
chiefly responsible for a controversy which raged for half a century,
are these:

   I sing the body electric.
   A woman waits for me.
   To a common prostitute.
   The dalliance of the eagles.

Wholly dissociated from the picturesque personality from which the
book emanated, Leaves of Grass bears a unique story margined on its
pages. The sprawling types whose muddy imprint on the ill-proportioned
pages made up the uncouth first edition of the book, were put together
by the author's hands, and the sorry press work was his handiwork as
well. The unusual preface and the twelve poems that followed he wrote
in the open, while lounging on the wharves, while crossing on
ferry-boats, while loitering in the fields, while sitting on the tops
of omnibuses. His physical materials were the stubs of pencils, the
backs of used envelopes, scraps of paper that easily came to hand. The
same open-air workshops and like crude tools of writing he utilized
for nearly forty years. During the thirty-seven years that intervened
between the first printing of his Leaves and his death in 1892, he
followed as his chief purpose in life the task he had set himself at
the beginning of his serious authorship--the cumulative expression of
personality in the larger sense which is manifest in the successive
and expanding editions of his Leaves of Grass. That book becomes
therefore, a life history. Incompletely as he may have performed this
self-imposed task, his own explanation of his purpose may well be
accepted as made in good faith. That explanation appears in the
preface to the 1876 edition, and amid the multitude of paper scraps
that came into the possession of his executors, following his passing
away, may be found similar clues:

"It was originally my intention, after chanting in Leaves of Grass the
songs of the body and of existence, to then compose a further,
equally-needed volume, based on those convictions of perpetuity and
conservation which, enveloping all precedents, make the unseen soul
govern absolutely at last. I meant, while in a sort continuing the
theme of my first chants, to shift the slides and exhibit the problem
and paradox of the same ardent and fully appointed personality
entering the sphere of the resistless gravitation of spiritual law,
and with cheerful face estimating death, not at all as the cessation,
but as somehow what I feel it must be, the entrance upon by far the
greater part of existence, and something that life is at least as much
for, as it is for itself."

Too long for repetition here, but important in the same connection for
a full understanding of Walt Whitman's motives, is that Backward
Glance O'er Travel'd Roads, wherein he summed up his work in fourteen
pages of prose, and with frank egotism appended this anecdote in a
footnote on the first page thereof: "When Champollion, on his death
bed, handed to the printer the revised proof of his Egyptian Grammar,
he said gayly, 'Be careful of this--it is my _carte de visite_ to
posterity.'"

Undaunted when ridicule poured over him, evenly tranquil when abuse
assailed him, unemotional when praise was lavished upon him,
unfalteringly and undeviatingly he pursued his way. The group headings
which were added in successive editions of his book, indicate the
milestones of his journey from the time when the Song of Myself noted
the beginning, till Whispers of Heavenly Death presaged the ending.
Familiarity with the main incidents and experiences of his life give
to the several annexes, as he was fond of calling the additions that
he made to each succeeding issue of his Leaves, the clues of chapter
headings: Children of Adam; Calamus; Birds of Passage; Sea-Drift; By
the Roadside; Drum-Taps; Autumn Rivulets; Whispers of Heavenly Death;
Songs of Parting.

A check list of his principal editions of Leaves of Grass, with
characteristics noted, would serve almost as a chronology of Whitman's
life story.

1855--FIRST EDITION. Twelve poems were included in this edition. They
are without distinctive titles, though in later issues they appeared
with varying titles, those given in the definitive edition being the
following:

   Song of myself.
   Song for occupations.
   To think of time.
   The sleepers.
   I sing the body electric.
   Faces.
   Song of the answerer.
   Europe.
   A Boston ballad.
   There was a child went forth.
   My lesson complete.
   Great are the myths.

1856--SECOND EDITION. In this edition, the second, there are
thirty-two poems. The poems are given titles, but not the same ones
that were finally included.

1860--THIRD EDITION. The number of poems is one hundred and
fifty-seven.

1867--FOURTH EDITION. The poems have grown in number to two hundred
and thirty-six. The inclusion here of the war cluster Drum-Taps, and a
rearrangement of other clusters, marks this edition as a notable one.
Drum-Taps had appeared as a separate volume two years earlier.

1871--FIFTH EDITION. A total of two hundred and seventy-three poems
are here classified under general titles, including for the first
time, Passage to India, and After All Not to Create Only, groups which
prior to this date were issued separately.

1876--SIXTH EDITION. This issue was intended as a Centennial edition,
and it includes Two Rivulets; there are two hundred and ninety-eight
poems.

1881--SEVENTH EDITION. Intended as the completion of a design
extending over a period of twenty-six years, Whitman had undertaken an
extensive revision of what he termed his bible of democracy. There are
three hundred and eighteen poems. This is the edition abandoned by the
publishers because threatened with prosecution by the district
attorney.

1889--EIGHTH EDITION. In celebration of the author's seventieth
birthday, a special autograph edition of three hundred copies was
issued.

1892--NINTH EDITION. Whitman supervised the make-up of this issue
during his last illness.

1897--TENTH EDITION. Here appeared for the first time, Old Age Echoes,
numbering thirteen poems.

1902--ELEVENTH AND DEFINITIVE EDITION. Issued by the literary
executors of Walt Whitman--Horace L. Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke,
and Thomas B. Harned.

There have been six editions of Whitman's complete writings, and
numerous selections from Leaves of Grass have been published under the
editorship of well-known literary men--among them, William M.
Rossetti, Ernest Rhys, W. T. Stead, and Oscar L. Triggs. There have
been translations into German, French, Italian, Russian, and several
Asiatic languages.

"I had my choice when I commenc'd," he notes in his Backward Glance of
1880; "I bid neither for soft eulogies, big money returns, nor the
approbation of existing schools and conventions.... Unstopp'd and
unwarp'd by any influence outside the soul within me, I have had my
say entirely my own way, and put it unerringly on record--the value
thereof to be decided by time."



III


With the war-time period came the turning point in the popular
estimate of Walt Whitman. No doubt, too, his experiences during this
time of stress and storm influenced the rest of his career as a man
and as a writer. His service as a volunteer nurse in camp and in
hospital gave him a sympathetic insight and a patriotic outlook
tempered with gentleness which are reflected in his poetry of this
period, published under the title Drum-Taps. His well-known song of
sorrow, O Captain, My Captain, is a threnody poignant with genuine
feeling. It has, more than any others of his verses, lyric rather than
plangent quality. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, and The
Sobbing of the Bells are other poems belonging to this distinctive
group. It is notable that in his lament over the death of Lincoln,
Whitman gives rhyme as well as rhythm to the verses.

This was a time of triumph for Whitman in a literary sense. In
Germany, the poet Ferdinand Freiligrath contributed to the Allgemeine
Zeitung, Augsburg, May 10, 1868, a long article in praise of his work.
In England, his poetry attracted the attention of the Rossettis,
Tennyson, John Addington Symonds. Mrs. Anne Gilchrist defended him
from the aspersions cast upon his references to womanhood. A
sympathetic and friendly tone began to displace the collection of
distasteful adjectives which had been his meed heretofore.

Then, in the latter part of 1865, occurred an episode which drew
around Whitman a circle of friends keen to resent, and active to
condemn, an act of injustice from one high in authority. Among the
influential friends who rushed to his defense were John Burroughs and
William Douglas O'Connor, and the events which drew their fire were
these:

Whitman, whose health was shattered by his untiring devotion and
ministrations to ill and wounded soldiers, had been given a minor
clerkship in the Department of the Interior. James Harlan was
Secretary of the Department. He had been a Methodist clergyman and
president of a western college. When his attention was called to
Whitman's authorship of Leaves of Grass, the Secretary characterized
the book as "full of indecent passages," the author was termed "a very
bad man," and was abruptly dismissed from the position he had held for
six months.

Whitman meekly accepted the curt dismissal, but William Douglas
O'Connor in a white heat of indignation issued a pamphlet which flayed
the astonished Secretary of the Interior as a narrow-minded
calumniator. The pamphlet, now a very rare document, was headed:

     THE GOOD GRAY POET
     A VINDICATION

With Celtic fervor and eloquence, William Douglas O'Connor made his
plea an intercession in the cause of free letters. He examined the
entire range of literature, ancient and modern, in quest of parallels
that would prove Whitman's book by comparison to be a masterpiece of
literature, and would demonstrate Mr. Secretary Harlan to be merely a
literary headsman. Out of many pages of allusion to the literary
productions of the great writers of all time and for all time, some
characteristic passages may be chosen:

   "Here is Dante. Open the tremendous pages of the Inferno. What
   is this line at the end of the twenty-first canto, which even
   John Carlyle flinches from translating, but which Dante did
   not flinch from writing? Out with Dante!

   "Here is the book of Job: the vast Arabian landscape, the
   picturesque pastoral details of Arabian life, the last tragic
   immensity of Oriental sorrow, the whole over-arching sky of
   Oriental piety, are here. But here also the inevitable
   'indecency.' Out with Job!

   "Here is Plutarch, prince of biographers, and Herodotus,
   flower of historians. What have we now? Traits of character
   not to be mentioned, incidents of conduct, accounts of
   manners, minute details of customs, which our modern
   historical dandies would never venture upon recording. Out
   with Plutarch and Herodotus!

   "Here is Shakespeare: 'indecent passages' everywhere; every
   drama, every poem thickly inlaid with them; all that men do
   displayed, sexual acts treated lightly, jested about,
   mentioned obscenely; the language never bolted; slang, gross
   puns, lewd words, in profusion. Out with Shakespeare!

   "Here is the Canticle of Canticles: beautiful, voluptuous poem
   of love literally, whatever be its mystic significance;
   glowing with the color, odorous with the spices, melodious
   with the voices of the East; sacred and exquisite and pure
   with the burning chastity of passion, which completes and
   exceeds the snowy chastity of virgins. This to me, but what to
   the Secretary? Can he endure that the female form should stand
   thus in a poem, disrobed, unveiled, bathed in erotic splendor?
   Look at these voluptuous details, this expression of desire,
   this amorous tone and glow, this consecration and perfume
   lavished upon the sensual. No! Out with Solomon!

   "Here is Isaiah. The grand thunder-roll of that righteousness,
   like the lion-roar of Jehovah above the guilty world, utters
   coarse words. Amidst the bolted lightnings of that sublime
   denunciation, coarse thoughts, indelicate figures, indecent
   allusions, flash upon the sight, like gross imagery in a
   midnight landscape. Out with Isaiah!

   "Here is Montaigne. Open those great, those virtuous pages of
   the unflinching reporter of man; the soul all truth and
   daylight, all candor, probity, sincerity, reality, eyesight.
   A few glances will suffice. Cant and vice and sniffle have
   groaned over these pages before. Out with Montaigne!

   "Here is Swedenborg. Open this poem of prose, the Conjugal
   Love, to me, a temple, though in ruins; the sacred fane,
   clothed in mist, filled with moonlight, of a great though
   broken mind. What spittle of critic epithets stains all here?
   'Lewd,' 'sensual,' 'lecherous,' 'coarse,' 'licentious,' etc.
   Of course these judgments are final. There is no appeal from
   the tobacco-juice of an expectorating and disdainful virtue.
   Out with Swedenborg!

   "Here is Goethe: the horrified squealing of prudes is not yet
   silent over pages of Wilhelm Meister: that high and chaste
   book, the Elective Affinities, still pumps up oaths from
   clergymen. Walpurgis has hardly ceased its uproar over Faust.
   Out with Goethe!

   "Here is Cervantes: open Don Quixote, paragon of romances,
   highest result of Spain, best and sufficient reason for her
   life among the nations, a laughing novel which is a weeping
   poem. But talk such as this of Sancho Panza and Tummas Cecial
   under the cork trees, and these coarse stories and bawdy
   words, and this free and gross comedy--is it to be endured?
   Out with Cervantes!

   "And here is Lord Bacon himself, in one of whose pages you may
   read, done from the Latin by Spedding into a magnificent
   golden thunder of English, the absolute defense of the free
   spirit of the great authors, coupled with stern rebuke to the
   spirit that would pick and choose, as dastard and effeminate.
   Out with Lord Bacon!

   "Not him only, not these only, not only the writers are under
   the ban. Here is Phidias, gorgeous sculptor in gold and ivory,
   giant dreamer of the Infinite in marble; but he will not use
   the fig-leaf. Here is Rembrandt, who paints the Holland
   landscape, the Jew, the beggar, the burgher, in lights and
   glooms of Eternity; and his pictures have been called
   'indecent,' Here is Mozart, his music rich with the sumptuous
   color of all sunsets; and it has been called 'sensual.' Here
   is Michael Angelo, who makes art tremble with a new and
   strange afflatus, and gives Europe novel and sublime forms
   that tower above the centuries, and accost the Greek; and his
   works have been called 'bestial.' Out with them all!"

In his summing up, stirred to wrath by the low tone of contemporary
comment, O'Connor proceeded to expound the philosophy of literary
ideals:

   "The level of the great books is the Infinite, the Absolute.
   To contain all, by containing the premise, the truth, the idea
   and feeling of all, to tally the universe by profusion,
   variety, reality, mystery, enclosure, power, terror, beauty,
   service; to be great to the utmost conceivability of
   greatness--what higher level than this can literature spring
   to? Up on the highest summit stand such works, never to be
   surpassed, never to be supplanted. Their indecency is not that
   of the vulgar; their vulgarity is not that of the low. Their
   evil, if it be evil, is not there for nothing--it serves; at
   the base of it is Love. Every poet of the highest quality is,
   in the masterly coinage of the author of Leaves of Grass, a
   kosmos. His work, like himself, is a second world, full of
   contrarieties, strangely harmonized, and moral indeed, but
   only as the world is moral. Shakespeare is all good, Rabelais
   is all good, Montaigne is all good, not because all the
   thoughts, the words, the manifestations are so, but because at
   the core, and permeating all, is an ethic intention--a love
   which, through mysterious, indirect, subtle, seemingly absurd,
   often terrible and repulsive, means, seeks to uplift, and
   never to degrade. It is the spirit in which authorship is
   pursued, as Augustus Schlegel has said, that makes it either
   an infamy or a virtue; and the spirit of the great authors, no
   matter what their letter, is one with that which pervades the
   Creation. In mighty love, with implements of pain and
   pleasure, of good and evil, Nature develops man; genius also,
   in mighty love, with implements of pain and pleasure, of good
   and evil, develops man; no matter what the means, that is the
   end.

   "Tell me not, then, of the indecent passages of the great
   poets. The world, which is the poem of God, is full of
   indecent passages! 'Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord
   hath not done it?' shouts Amos. 'I form the light, and create
   darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all
   these things,' thunders Isaiah. 'This,' says Coleridge, 'is
   the deep abyss of the mystery of God.' Ay, and the profound of
   the mystery of genius also! Evil is part of the economy of
   genius, as it is part of the economy of Deity. Gentle
   reviewers endeavor to find excuses for the freedoms of
   geniuses. 'It is to prove that they were above
   conventionalities.' 'It is referable to the age.' Oh, Ossa on
   Pelion, mount piled on mount, of error and folly! What has
   genius, spirit of the absolute and the eternal, to do with
   the definitions of position, or conventionalities, or the age?
   Genius puts indecencies into its works, because God puts them
   into His world. Whatever the special reason in each case, this
   is the general reason in all cases. They are here, because
   they are there. That is the eternal why. No; Alphonso of
   Castile thought that, if he had been consulted at the
   Creation, he could have given a few hints to the Almighty. Not
   I. I play Alphonso neither to genius nor to God.

   "What is this poem, for the giving of which to America and the
   world, and for that alone, its author has been dismissed with
   ignominy from a Government office? It is a poem which Schiller
   might have hailed as the noblest specimen of native
   literature, worthy of a place beside Homer. It is, in the
   first place, a work purely and entirely American,
   autochthonic, sprung from our own soil; no savor of Europe nor
   the past, nor of any other literature in it; a vast carol of
   our own land, and of its Present and Future; the strong and
   haughty psalm of the Republic. There is not one other book, I
   care not whose, of which this can be said. I weigh my words
   and have considered well. Every other book by an American
   author implies, both in form and substance, I cannot even say
   the European, but the British mind. The shadow of Temple Bar
   and Arthur's Seat lies dark on all our letters. Intellectually
   we are still a dependency of Great Britain, and one
   word--colonial--comprehends and stamps our literature. In no
   literary form, except our newspapers, has there been anything
   distinctively American. I note our best books--the works of
   Jefferson, the romances of Brockden Brown, the speeches of
   Webster, Everett's rhetoric, the divinity of Channing, some of
   Cooper's novels, the writings of Theodore Parker, the poetry
   of Bryant, the masterly law arguments of Lysander Spooner, the
   miscellanies of Margaret Fuller, the histories of Hildreth,
   Bancroft and Motley, Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature,
   Judd's Margaret, the political treatises of Calhoun, the rich,
   benignant poems of Longfellow, the ballads of Whittier, the
   delicate songs of Philip Pendleton Cooke, the weird poetry of
   Edgar Poe, the wizard tales of Hawthorne, Irving's
   Knickerbocker, Delia Bacon's splendid sibyllic book on
   Shakespeare, the political economy of Carey, the prison
   letters and immortal speech of John Brown, the lofty patrician
   eloquence of Wendell Phillips, and those diamonds of the first
   water, the great clear essays and greater poems of Emerson.
   This literature has often commanding merits, and much of it is
   very precious to me; but in respect to its national character,
   all that can be said is that it is tinged, more or less
   deeply, with America; and the foreign model, the foreign
   standards, the foreign ideas, dominate over it all.

   "At most, our best books were but struggling beams; behold in
   Leaves of Grass the immense and absolute sunrise! It is all
   our own! The nation is in it! In form a series of chants, in
   substance it is an epic of America. It is distinctively and
   utterly American. Without model, without imitation, without
   reminiscence, it is evolved entirely from our own polity and
   popular life. Look at what it celebrates and contains! hardly
   to be enumerated without sometimes using the powerful,
   wondrous phrases of its author, so indissoluble are they with
   the things described. The essences, the events, the objects of
   America; the myriad, varied landscapes; the teeming and giant
   cities; the generous and turbulent populations; the prairie
   solitudes, the vast pastoral plateaus; the Mississippi; the
   land dense with villages and farms; the habits, manners,
   customs; the enormous diversity of temperatures; the immense
   geography; the red aborigines passing away, 'charging the
   water and the land with names'; the early settlements; the
   sudden uprising and defiance of the Revolution; the august
   figure of Washington; the formation and sacredness of the
   Constitution; the pouring in of the emigrants; the
   million-masted harbors; the general opulence and comfort; the
   fisheries, and whaling, and gold-digging, and manufactures,
   and agriculture; the dazzling movement of new States, rushing
   to be great; Nevada rising, Dakota rising, Colorado rising;
   the tumultuous civilization around and beyond the Rocky
   Mountains, thundering and spreading; the Union impregnable;
   feudalism in all its forms forever tracked and assaulted;
   liberty deathless on these shores; the noble and free
   character of the people; the equality of male and female; the
   ardor, the fierceness, the friendship, the dignity, the
   enterprise, the affection, the courage, the love of music, the
   passion for personal freedom; the mercy and justice and
   compassion of the people; the popular faults and vices and
   crimes; the deference of the President to the private citizen;
   the image of Christ forever deepening in the public mind as
   the brother of despised and rejected persons; the promise and
   wild song of the future; the vision of the Federal Mother,
   seated with more than antique majesty in the midst of her many
   children; the pouring glories of the hereafter; the vistas of
   splendor, incessant and branching, the tremendous elements,
   breeds, adjustments of America--with all these, with more,
   with everything transcendent, amazing and new, undimmed by the
   pale cast of thought, and with the very color and brawn of
   actual life, the whole gigantic epic of our continental being
   unwinds in all its magnificent reality in these pages. To
   understand Greece, study the Iliad and the Odyssey; study
   Leaves of Grass to understand America. Her democracy is there.
   Would you have a text-book of democracy? The writings of
   Jefferson are good; De Tocqueville is better; but the great
   poet always contains historian and philosopher--and to know
   the comprehending spirit of this country, you shall question
   these insulted pages."



IV


It would be wearisome to refer in detail to the numerous estimates of
Leaves of Grass which have found print since 1870. The increasing
literature about Whitman bespeaks interest, and the kindly tenor of
most commentators testifies to the enlarging appreciation of the Good
Gray Poet. Within the past decade there have appeared seven
biographies of him, all but one of them wholly and frankly lavish in
his praise, and that one not unfriendly in criticism. Numerous book
chapters have dealt with him in recognition of his genius, and only
here and there have there been suggestions of earlier absolute
condemnation. Among the biographers have been, in chronological
sequence, Richard Maurice Bucke, John Burroughs, John Addington
Symonds, Isaac Hull Platt, Geo. R. Carpenter, Bliss Perry, Henry Bryan
Binns. Among the notable contributors of book chapters on Whitman may
be mentioned from a list of two score or more, Robert Louis Stevenson,
in his Studies of Men and Books; A. T. Quiller-Couch, in his
Adventures in Criticism; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in his
Contemporaries; Havelock Ellis, in The New Spirit; Edward Dowden, in
his Studies in Literature; Edmund Gosse, in his Critical Kit-Kats;
Hamilton Mabie, in his Backgrounds of Literature; Brander Matthews, in
his Aspects of Fiction; Edmund Clarence Stedman, in his Poets of
America; George Santayana, in The Poetry of Barbarism; and Algernon
Charles Swinburne, in his Studies in Prose and Poetry. These have been
mentioned specifically because they average the good and the bad
rather than join in a chorus of indiscriminate praise. Indeed, the two
last mentioned are distinctly hostile in tone. Swinburne, who in his
earlier volume Songs before Sunrise, addressed a long poem, To Walt
Whitman in America, fervent in praise,

    "Send but a song oversea for us,
    Heart of their hearts who are free,
    Heart of their singer to be for us
    More than our singing can be,"

revoked all his former words of sympathetic admiration and in his
later volume, printed in 1894, vehemently fell upon Whitman in this
strain:

   "There is no subject which may not be treated with success (I
   do not say there are no subjects which on other than artistic
   grounds it may not be as well to avoid, it may not be better
   to pass by) if the poet, by instinct or by training, knows
   exactly how to handle it aright, to present it without danger
   of just or rational offense. For evidence of this truth we
   need look no further than the pastorals of Virgil and
   Theocritus. But under the dirty clumsy paws of a harper whose
   plectrum is a muck-rake any tune will become a chaos of
   discords, though the motive of the tune should be the first
   principle of nature--the passion of man for woman or the
   passion of woman for man. And the unhealthily demonstrative
   and obtrusive animalism of the Whitmaniad is as unnatural, as
   incompatible with the wholesome instincts of human passion, as
   even the filthy and inhuman asceticism of SS. Macarius and
   Simeon Stylites. If anything can justify the serious and
   deliberate display of merely physical emotion in literature or
   in art, it must be one of two things; intense depth of feeling
   expressed with inspired perfection of simplicity, with divine
   sublimity of fascination, as by Sappho; or transcendent
   supremacy of actual and irresistible beauty in such revelation
   of naked nature as was possible to Titian. But Mr. Whitman's
   Eve is a drunken apple-woman, indecently sprawling in the
   slush and garbage of the gutter amid the rotten refuse of her
   overturned fruit-stall: but Mr. Whitman's Venus is a Hottentot
   wench under the influence of cantharides and adulterated rum."

Weighing the good and the bad, Robert Louis Stevenson in his essay
does not stint admiration nor withhold blame:

   "He has chosen a rough, unrhymed, lyrical verse; sometimes
   instinct with a fine processional movement; often so rugged
   and careless that it can only be described by saying that he
   has not taken the trouble to write prose * * * and one thing
   is certain, that no one can appreciate Whitman's excellences
   until he has grown accustomed to his faults."

Indicating the attitude of his partisans, John Burroughs' summing up
is fairly representative:

   "Just as ripe, mellowed, storied, ivy-towered, velvet-turfed
   England lies back of Tennyson, and is vocal through him; just
   as canny, covenanting, conscience-burdened, craggy,
   sharp-tongued Scotland lies back of Carlyle; just as thrifty,
   well-schooled, well-housed, prudent and moral New England lies
   back of her group of poets, and is voiced by them--so America
   as a whole, our turbulent democracy, our self-glorification,
   our faith in the future, our huge mass-movements, our
   continental spirit, our sprawling, sublime and unkempt nature
   lie back of Whitman, and are implied by his work."

It is not the purpose of this book to interpret Whitman either as a
prophet or a poet, except inferentially as the words of his critics
may carry distinct impressions. After all, the justest estimate of
Whitman and his book is his own. Whitman's puzzling characteristics
are best understood if we realize that Leaves of Grass is an
autobiography--and an extraordinarily candid one--of a man whose
peculiar temperament found expression in prose-verse. His gentleness,
his brusqueness, his egotism, his humility, his grossness, his finer
nature, his crudeness, his eloquence, are all here. To him they were
the attributes of all mankind.

    "I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise;
    Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
    Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
    Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse, and stuff'd with the
        stuff that is fine."

In his virile young manhood he announced with gusto: "I sound my
barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

In his serene old age he said: "Over the tree-tops I float thee a
song."

And this was his conclusion: "I call to the world to distrust the
accounts of my friends, but listen to my enemies as I myself do. I
charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I cannot
expound myself."

Whoso challenges Whitman's gift of song may not at any rate deny to
him the note of melody. This quality is strong in his titles
particularly:

    Rise O days from your fathomless deeps.
    In cabin'd ships at sea.
    Out of the cradle endlessly rocking.
    Sands at seventy.
    The sobbing of the bells.
    Soon shall the winter's foil be here.
    Thou mother with thy equal brood.
    To the leaven'd soil they trod.
    Yon tides with ceaseless swell.
    When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed.
    Sparkles from the wheel.
    Brother of all with generous hand.
    As a strong bird on pinions free.

For a just estimate of Whitman, as for a clear comprehension of the
symbolism contained in Leaves of Grass, a few blades of the latter
will not suffice. It must be all, or none. The two poems here given
should be taken, therefore, not as representative of the whole, but as
types of two widely variant moods:

    Of olden time, when it came to pass
    That the beautiful god, Jesus, should finish his work on earth,
    Then went Judas, and sold the divine youth,
    And took pay for his body.

    Curst was the deed, even before the sweat of the clutching
        hand grew dry;
    And darkness frown'd upon the seller of the like of God,
    Where, as though earth lifted her breast to throw him from her,
        and heaven refus'd him,
    He hung in the air, self-slaughter'd.

    The cycles, with their long shadows, have stalked silently forward
    Since those days--many a pouch enwrapping meanwhile
    Its fee, like that paid for the son of Mary.

    And still goes one, saying,
    "What will ye give me, and I will deliver this man unto you?"
    And they make the covenant, and pay the pieces of silver.

    Look forth, deliverer,
    Look forth, first-born of the dead,
    Over the tree-tops of Paradise;
    See thyself in yet-continued bonds,
    Toilsome and poor, thou bear'st man's form again,
    Thou art reviled, scourged, put into prison,
    Hunted from the arrogant equality of the rest;
    With staves and swords throng the willing servants of authority,
    Again they surround thee, mad with devilish spite;
    Toward thee stretch the hands of a multitude, like vultures' talons,
    The nearest spit in thy face, they smite thee with their palms;
    Bruised, bloody, and pinion'd is thy body,
    More sorrowful than death is thy soul.

    Witness of anguish, brother of slaves,
    Not with thy price closed the price of thine image:
    And still Iscariot plies his trade.


                    I

    The soul,
    Forever and forever--longer than soil is brown and solid--longer
        than water ebbs and flows.


                   II

    Each is not for its own sake,
    I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky
        are for religion's sake.


                  III

    In this broad earth of ours,
    Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
    Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
    Nestles the seed perfection.
    By every life a share or more or less,
    None born but it is born, conceal'd or unconceal'd the seed is waiting.


                   IV

    Do you not see O my brothers and sisters?
    It is not chaos or death--it is form, union, plan--it is
        eternal life--it is Happiness.


                    V

    The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
    The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him--it cannot fail.


                   VI

    I see Hermes, unsuspected, dying, well-beloved, saying to the
        people _Do not weep for me,
    This is not my true country, I have lived banish'd from my true
        country, I now go back there,
    I return to the celestial sphere where every one goes in his turn._

       *       *       *       *       *

This is an attempt, incomplete but fairly representative as to
sources, to trace the changing view during half a century of Leaves of
Grass and its author.



V


Sonnets and apostrophes in large number addressed to Walt Whitman
during the later years of his life, and since his passing away, have
appeared in fugitive form in widely separated sources. A selection of
these may prove of interest by reason of the names attached, as well
as because of the subject:

    "The good gray poet" gone! Brave hopeful Walt!
    He might not be a singer without fault,
    And his large rough-hewn rhythm did not chime
    With dulcet daintiness of time and rhyme.
    He was no neater than wide Nature's wild,
    More metrical than sea winds. Culture's child,
    Lapped in luxurious laws of line and lilt,
    Shrank from him shuddering, who was roughly built
    As cyclopean temples. Yet there rang
    True music through his rhapsodies, as he sang
    Of brotherhood, and freedom, love and hope,
    With strong, wide sympathy which dared to cope
    With all life's phases, and call nought unclean.
    Whilst hearts are generous, and whilst woods are green,
    He shall find hearers, who in a slack time
    Of puny bards and pessimistic rhyme,
    Dared to bid men adventure and rejoice.
    His "yawp barbaric" was a human voice;
    The singer was a man. America
    Is poorer by a stalwart soul today,
    And may feel pride that she hath given birth
    To this stout laureate of old Mother Earth.
                                --_Punch_


    Good-bye, Walt!
      Good-bye from all you loved of Earth--
    Rock, tree, dumb creature, man and woman--
      To you their comrade human.
        The last assault
    Ends now, and now in some great world has birth
    A minstrel, whose strong soul finds broader wings,
      More brave imaginings.
    Stars crown the hill-top where your dust shall lie,
      Even as we say good-bye,
        Good-bye, old Walt!
                                --_Edmund Clarence Stedman_


    He was in love with truth and knew her near--
    Her comrade, not her suppliant on the knee:
    She gave him wild melodious words to be
    Made music that should haunt the atmosphere.
    She drew him to her bosom, day-long dear,
    And pointed to the stars and to the sea,
    And taught him miracles and mystery,
    And made him master of the rounded year.
    Yet one gift did she keep. He looked in vain,
    Brow-shaded, through the darkness of the mist,
    Marking a beauty like a wandering breath
    That beckoned, yet denied his soul a tryst:
    He sang a passion, yet he saw not plain
    Till kind earth held him and he spake with death.
                                --_Harrison S. Morris_


    Some find thee foul and rank and fetid, Walt,
    Who cannot tell Arabia from a sty.
    Thou followeth Truth, nor feareth, nor doth halt;
    Truth: and the sole uncleanness is a lie.
                                --_William Watson_


    Presage of strength yet to be, voice of the youngest of Time,
      Singer of the golden dawn,
    From thy great message must come light for the bettering days,
      Joy to the hands that toil,
      Might to the hopes that droop,
      Power to the Nation reborn,
    Poet and master and seer, helper and friend unto men,
      Truth that shall pass into the life of us all!
                                --_Louis J. Block_


    Send but a song oversea for us,
      Heart of their hearts who are free,
    Heart of their singer to be for us
      More than our singing can be;
    Ours, in the tempest at error,
    With no light but the twilight of terror;
      Send us a song oversea!

    Sweet-smelling of pine-leaves and grasses,
      And blown as a tree through and through
    With the winds of the keen mountain passes,
      And tender as sun-smitten dew;
    Sharp-tongued as the winter that shakes
    The wastes of your limitless lakes,
      Wide-eyed as the sea-line's blue.

    O strong-winged soul with prophetic
      Lips hot with the bloodbeats of song,
    With tremor of heartstrings magnetic,
      With thoughts as thunders in throng,
    With consonant ardours of chords
    That pierce men's souls as with swords
      And hale them hearing along.
                                --_Algernon Swinburne_


    Serene, vast head, with silver cloud of hair,
    Lined on the purple dusk of death
    A stern medallion, velvet set--
    Old Norseman throned, not chained upon thy chair:
    Thy grasp of hand, thy hearty breath
    Of welcome thrills me yet
      As when I faced thee there.

    Loving my plain as thou thy sea,
    Facing the east as thou the west,
    I bring a handful of grass to thee,
    The prairie grasses I know the best--
    Type of the wealth and width of the plain,
    Strong of the strength of the wind and sleet,
    Fragrant with sunlight and cool with rain--
    I bring it, and lay it low at thy feet,
      Here by the eastern sea.
                                 --_Hamlin Garland_


    I toss upon Thy grave,
    (After Thy life resumed, after the pause, the backward glance of Death;
    Hence, hence the vistas on, the march continued,
    In larger spheres, new lives in paths untrodden,
    On! till the circle rounded, ever the journey on!)
    Upon Thy grave,--the vital sod how thrilled as from
      Thy limbs and breast transpired,
    Rises the spring's sweet utterance of flowers,--
    I toss this sheaf of song, these scattered leaves of love!
    For thee, Thy Soul and Body spent for me,
    --And now still living, now in love, transmitting still
      Thy Soul, Thy Flesh to me, to all!--
    These variant phrases of the long-immortal chant
    I toss upon Thy grave!
                                --_George Cabot Lodge_


    I am no slender singing bird
    That feeds on puny garden seed!
    My songs are stronger than those heard
    In ev'ry wind-full, shallow reed!
    My pipes are jungle-grown and need
    A strong man's breath to blow them well;
    A strong soul's sense to solve their spell
    And be by their deep music stirred.

    My voice speaks not, in lisping notes,
    The madrigals of lesser minds!
    My heart tones thunder from the throats
    Of throbbing seas and raging winds;
    And yet, the master-spirit finds
    The tenderness of mother earth
    Is there expressed, despite the dearth
    Of tinkle tunes like dancing motes!

    My hand strokes not a golden lyre
    Threaded with silver--spider spun!
    The strings I strike are strands of fire,
    Strung from Earth's center to the Sun!
    Thrilled with passion, ev'ry one!
    With songs of forest, corn, and vine;
    Of rushing water, blood, and wine;
    Of man's conception and desire!

    But listen, comrade! This I say:
    In all of all I give my heart!
    With lover's voice I bid you stay
    To share with me the better part
    Of all my days! nights! thoughts! and start
    With far-spread arms to welcome you,
    And we will shout a song so true
    That it shall ring for aye and aye.
                                --_Ray Clarke Rose_


    Your lonely muse, unraimented with rhyme,
    Her hair unfilleted, her feet unshod,
    Naked and not ashamed demands of God
    No covering for her beauty's youth or prime.
    Clad but with thought, as space is clad with time,
    Or both with worlds where man and angels plod,
    She runs in joy, magnificently odd,
    Ruggedly wreathed with flowers of every clime.
    And you to whom her breath is sweeter far
    Than choicest attar of the martyred rose
    More deeply feel mortality's unrest
    Than poets born beneath a happier star,
    Because the pathos of your grand repose
    Shows that all earth has throbbed within your breast.
                                --_Albert Edmund Lancaster_


    They say that thou art sick, art growing old,
    Thou Poet of unconquerable health,
    With youth far-stretching, through the golden wealth
    Of autumn, to Death's frostful, friendly cold;
    The never-blenching eyes, that did behold
    Life's fair and foul, with measureless content,
    And gaze ne'er sated, saddened as they bent
    Over the dying soldier in the fold
    Of thy large comrade love:--then broke the tear!
    War-dream, field-vigil, the bequeathëd kiss,
    Have brought old age to thee; yet, Master, now,
    Cease not thy song to us; lest we should miss
    A death-chant of indomitable cheer,
    Blown as a gale from God;--Oh, sing it thou!
                                --_Aaron Leigh_


    O pure heart singer of the human frame
    Divine, whose poesy disdains control
    Of slavish bonds! each poem is a soul,
    Incarnate born of thee, and given thy name.
    Thy genius is unshackled as a flame
    That sunward soars, the central light its goal;
    Thy thoughts are lightnings, and thy numbers roll
    In Nature's thunders that put art to shame.
    Exalter of the land that gave thee birth,
    Though she insult thy grand gray years with wrong
    Of infamy, foul-branding thee with scars
    Of felon-hate, still shalt thou be on earth
    Revered, and in Fame's firmament of song
    Thy name shall blaze among the eternal stars!
                                --_Leonard Wheeler_


    O Titan soul, ascend your starry steep,
      On golden stair, to gods and storied men!
    Ascend! nor care where thy traducers creep.
      For what may well be said of prophets, when
    A world that's wicked comes to call them good?
    Ascend and sing! As kings of thought who stood
      On stormy heights, and held far lights to men,
    Stand thou, and shout above the tumbled roar,
    Lest brave ships drive and break against the shore.
    What though thy sounding song be roughly set?
      Parnassus' self is rough! Give thou the thought,
    The golden ore, the gems that few forget;
      In time the tinsel jewel will be wrought.
    Stand thou alone, and fixed as destiny,
      An imaged god that lifts above all hate;
      Stand thou serene and satisfied with fate;
    Stand thou as stands the lightning-riven tree,
    That lords the cloven clouds of gray Yosemite.
    Yea, lone, sad soul, thy heights must be thy home;
      Thou sweetest lover! love shall climb to thee
    Like incense curling some cathedral dome,
      From many distant vales. Yet thou shalt be,
    O grand, sweet singer, to the end alone.
      But murmur not. The moon, the mighty spheres,
      Spin on alone through all the soundless years;
    Alone man comes on earth; he lives alone;
    Alone he turns to front the dark unknown.
                                --_Joaquin Miller_


    I knew there was an old, white-bearded seer
    Who dwelt among the streets of Camden town;
    I had the volumes which his hand wrote down--
    The living evidence we love to hear
    Of one who walks reproachless, without fear.
    But when I saw that face, capped with its crown
    Of snow-white almond-buds, his high renown
    Faded to naught, and only did appear
    The calm old man, to whom his verses tell,
    All sounds were music, even as a child;
    And then the sudden knowledge on me fell,
    For all the hours his fancies had beguiled,
    No verse had shown the Poet half so well
    As when he looked into my face and smiled.
                                --_Linn Porter_


    Friend Whitman! wert thou less serene and kind,
    Surely thou mightest (like the bard sublime),
    Scorned by a generation deaf and blind,
    Make thine appeal to the avenger TIME;
    For thou art none of those who upward climb,
    Gathering roses with a vacant mind.
    Ne'er have thy hands for jaded triflers twined
    Sick flowers of rhetoric and weeds of rhyme.
    Nay, thine hath been a Prophet's stormier fate.
    While LINCOLN and the martyr'd legions wait
    In the yet widening blue of yonder sky,
    On the great strand below them thou art seen,
    Blessing, with something Christ-like in thy mien,
    A sea of turbulent lives, that break and die.
                                --_Robert Buchanan_


    Darkness and death? Nay, Pioneer, for thee
    The day of deeper vision has begun;
    There is no darkness for the central sun
    Nor any death for immortality.
    At last the song of all fair songs that be,
    At last the guerdon of a race well run,
    The upswelling joy to know the victory won,
    The river's rapture when it finds the sea.
    Ah, thou art wrought in an heroic mould,
    The Modern Man upon whose brow yet stays
    A gleam of glory from the age of gold--
    A diadem which all the gods have kissed.
    Hail and farewell! Flower of the antique days,
    Democracy's divine protagonist.
                                --_Francis Howard Williams_


    Tranquil as stars that unafraid
    Pursue their way through space,
    Vital as light, unhoused as wind,
    Unloosed from time and place;

    Solemn as birth, and sane as death,
    Thy bardic chantings move;
    Rugged as earth, and salt as sea,
    And bitter-sweet as love.
                                --_May Morgan_


    One master poet royally her own,
    Begot of Freedom, bore our Western World:
    A poet, native as the dew impearl'd
    Upon her grass; a brother, thew and bone,
    To mountains wild, vast lakes and prairies lone;
    One, life and soul, akin to speech unfurl'd,
    And zeal of artisan, and song not curl'd
    In fronded forms, or petrified in tone.
    High latitudes of thought gave breath to him;
    The paps he suck'd ran not false shame for milk;
    No bastard he! but virile truth in limb
    And soul. A Titan mocking at the silk
    That bound the wings of song. A tongue of flame,
    Whose ashes gender an immortal name.
                                --_Joseph W. Chapman_


    Thou lover of the cosmos vague and vast,
    In which thy virile mind would penetrate
    Unto the rushing, primal springs of fate,
    Ruling alike the future, present, past:
    Now, having breasted waves beyond death's blast,
    New Neptune's steeds saluted, white and great,
    And entered through the glorious Golden Gate.
    And gained the fair celestial shores at last,
    Still worship'st thou the Ocean? thou that tried
    To comprehend its mental roar and surge,
    Its howling as of victory and its dirge
    For continents submerged by shock and tide.
    By that immortal ocean now what cheer?
    Do crews patrol and save the same as here?
                                --_Edward S. Creamer_


    All hail to thee! WALT WHITMAN! Poet, Prophet, Priest!
    Celebrant of Democracy! At more than regal feast
    To thee we offer homage, and with our greenest bay
    We crown thee Poet Laureate on this thy natal day.
    We offer choice ascription--our loyal tribute bring,
    In this the new Olympiad in which thou reignest king.
    POET of the present age, and of æons yet to be,
    In this the chosen homestead of those who would be free--
    Free from feudal usage, from courtly sham and cant;
    Free from kingcraft, priestcraft, with all their rot and rant!
    PROPHET of a race redeemed from all conventual thrall,
    Espouser of equal sexship in body, soul, and all!
    PRIEST of a ransom'd people, endued with clearer light;
    A newer dispensation for those of psychic sight.
    We greet thee as our mentor, we meet thee as our friend,
    And to thy ministrations devotedly we lend
    The aid that comes from fealty which thou hast made so strong,
    Thro' touch of palm, and glint of eye, and spirit of thy song.
    We magnify thy mission, we glorify thy aim,
    Unfalteringly adhered to through ill-report and blame--
    The fretting of the groundlings, the fumings of the pit,
    The jibes and jeers and snarls and sneers which men mistake for wit.
    We knew the rising splendor of thy sun could never wane
    Until, the earth encompass'd, it sank in dazzling flame.
    In faith assured we waited as in patience thou didst wait,
    Knowing full well the answer must sooner come or late.
    And come it has, sufficingly, the discord disappears
    Until today again is heard the music of the spheres
    Proclaiming thee the well-beloved, peer of the proudest peers.
                                --_Henry L. Bonsall_


    He fell asleep when in the century's skies
    The paling stars proclaimed another day--
    He, genial still, amidst the chill and gray,
    With smiling lips and trustful, dauntless eyes;
    He, the Columbus of a vast emprise,
    Whose realization in the future lay;
    He, who stepped from the well-worn, narrow way
    To walk with Poetry in larger guise.
    And fortunate, despite of transient griefs,
    The years announce him in a new born age;
    The ship of his fair fame, past crags and reefs,
    Sails bravely on, and less and less the rage
    Of gainsaying winds becomes; while to his phrase
    The world each day gives ampler heed and praise!
                                --_William Struthers_


    Here health we pledge you in one draught of song,
    Caught in this rhymster's cup from earth's delight,
    Where English fields are green the whole year long--
    The wine of might,
    That the new-come spring distills, most sweet and strong,
    In the viewless air's alembic, that's wrought too fine for sight.
    Good health! we pledge, that care may lightly sleep,
    And pain of age be gone for this one day,
    As of this loving cup you take, and, drinking deep,
    Are glad at heart straightway
    To feel once more the friendly heat of the sun
    Creative in you (as when in youth it shone),
    And pulsing brainward with the rhythmic wealth
    Of all the summer whose high minstrelsy
    Shall soon crown field and tree,
    To call back age to youth again, and pain to perfect health.
                                --_Ernest Rhys_


      I loaf and invite my soul
      And what do I feel?
    An influx of life from the great central power
    That generates beauty from seedling to flower.
      I loaf and invite my soul
      And what do I hear?
    Original harmonies piercing the din
    Of measureless tragedy, sorrow and sin.
      I loaf and invite my soul
      And what do I see?
    The temple of God in the perfected man.
    Revealing the wisdom and end of earth's plan.
                                --_Elizabeth Porter Gould_


    He passed amid the noisy throngs,
      His elbow touched with theirs;
    They grumbled at their petty wrongs,
      Their woes and cares;

    They asked if "Princeton stood to win";
      Or what they should invest;
    They told with gusto and with grin
      Some futile jest.

    They jostled him and passed him by,
      Nor slacked their eager pace;
    They did not mark that noble eye,
      That noble face.

    So carelessly they let him go,
      His mien they could not scan,--
    Thinker whom all the world would know,
      Our greatest man.
                                _Max J. Herzberg_


Here ends this book written by Henry Eduard Legler, arranged in this
form by Laurence C. Woodworth, Scrivener, and printed for the Brothers
of the Book at the press of The Faithorn Company, Chicago, 1916.


     _Incipit Vita Nova_





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