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´╗┐Title: Walt Whitman - An Address
Author: Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899
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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[Frontispiece: WALT WHITMAN]



WALT WHITMAN.


AN ADDRESS

BY

ROBERT G. INGERSOLL


"LIBERTY IN LITERATURE."


Delivered in Philadelphia, Oct. 21, 1890.  Also Funeral
  Address Delivered at Harleigh, Camden, N. J.,
    March 30, 1892.


WITH PORTRAIT OF WHITMAN.


AUTHORIZED EDITION.


New York;

THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY,

28 Lafayette Place.



Copyrighted, 1890,

BY

THE TRUTH SEEKER COMPANY.



TESTIMONIAL

TO

WALT WHITMAN.


Of all the placid hours in his peaceful life, those that Walt Whitman
spent on the stage of Horticultural Hall last night must have been
among the most gratifying, says the Philadelphia Press of October 22,
1890.  To a testimonial, intended to cheer his declining years, not
only in a complimentary sense, came some eighteen hundred or more
people to listen to a tribute to the aged poet by Col. Robert G.
Ingersoll, such as seldom falls to the lot of living man to hear about
himself.

On the stage sat many admirers of the venerable torch-bearer of modern
poetic thought, as Colonel Ingersoll described him, young and old, men
and women.  There were white beards, but none were so white as that of
the author of "Leaves of Grass."  He sat calm and sedate in his easy
wheeled chair, with his usual garb of gray, with his cloudy white hair
falling over his white, turned-down collar that must have been three
inches wide.  No burst of eloquence from the orator's lips disturbed
that equanimity; no tribute of applause moved him from his habitual
calm.

And when the lecturer, having concluded, said, "We have met to-night to
honor ourselves by honoring the author of 'Leaves of Grass,'" and the
audience started to leave the hall, the man they had honored reached
forward with his cane and attracted Colonel Ingersoll's attention.

"Do not leave yet," said Colonel Ingersoll, "Mr. Whitman has a word to
say."

This is what he said, and no more characteristic thing ever fell from
the poet's lips or flowed from his pen:

"After all, my friends, the main factors being the curious testimony
called personal presence and face to face meeting, I have come here to
be among you and show myself, and thank you with my living voice for
coming, and Robert Ingersoll for speaking.  And so with such brief
testimony of showing myself, and such good will and gratitude, I bid
you hail and farewell."



THE ADDRESS.


_Let us Put Wreaths on the Brows of the Living._


I.

In the year 1855 the American people knew but little of books.  Their
ideals, their models, were English.  Young and Pollok, Addison and
Watts were regarded as great poets.  Some of the more reckless read
Thomson's "Seasons" and the poems and novels of Sir Walter Scott.  A
few, not quite orthodox, delighted in the mechanical monotony of Pope,
and the really wicked--those lost to all religious shame--were
worshipers of Shakespeare.  The really orthodox Protestant, untroubled
by doubts, considered Milton the greatest poet of them all.  Byron and
Shelley were hardly respectable--not to be read by young persons.  It
was admitted on all hands that Burns was a child of nature of whom his
mother was ashamed and proud.

In the blessed year aforesaid, candor, free and sincere speech, were
under the ban.  Creeds at that time were entrenched behind statutes,
prejudice, custom, ignorance, stupidity, Puritanism and slavery; that
is to say, slavery of mind and body.

Of course it always has been, and forever will be, impossible for
slavery, or any kind or form of injustice, to produce a great poet.
There are hundreds of verse makers and writers on the side of
wrong--enemies of progress--but they are not poets, they are not men of
genius.

At this time a young man--he to whom this testimonial is given--he upon
whose head have fallen the snows of more than seventy winters--this
man, born within the sound of the sea, gave to the world a book,
"Leaves of Grass."  This book was, and is, the true transcript of a
soul.  The man is unmasked.  No drapery of hypocrisy, no pretense, no
fear.  The book was as original in form as in thought.  All customs
were forgotten or disregarded, all rules broken--nothing mechanical--no
imitation--spontaneous, running and winding like a river, multitudinous
in its thoughts as the waves of the sea--nothing mathematical or
measured.  In everything a touch of chaos--lacking what is called form
as clouds lack form, but not lacking the splendor of sunrise or the
glory of sunset.  It was a marvelous collection and aggregation of
fragments, hints, suggestions, memories, and prophecies, weeds and
flowers, clouds and clods, sights and sounds, emotions and passions,
waves, shadows and constellations.

His book was received by many with disdain, with horror, with
indignation and protest--by the few as a marvelous, almost miraculous,
message to the world--full of thought, philosophy, poetry and music.

In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous.  A great soul
appears and fills the world with new and marvelous harmonies.  In his
words is the old Promethean flame.  The heart of nature beats and
throbs in his line.  The respectable prudes and pedagogues sound the
alarm, and cry, or rather screech: "Is this a book for a young person?"

A poem true to life as a Greek statue--candid as nature--fills these
barren souls with fear.

They forget that drapery about the perfect was suggested by immodesty.

The provincial prudes, and others of like mold, pretend that love is a
duty rather than a passion--a kind of self-denial--not an overmastering
joy.  They preach the gospel of pretense and pantalettes.  In the
presence of sincerity, of truth, they cast down their eyes and endeavor
to feel immodest.  To them, the most beautiful thing is hypocrisy
adorned with a blush.

They have no idea of an honest, pure passion, glorying in its
strength--intense, intoxicated with the beautiful, giving even to
inanimate things pulse and motion, and that transfigures, ennobles, and
idealizes the object of its adoration.

They do not walk the streets of the city of life--they explore the
sewers; they stand in the gutters and cry "Unclean!"  They pretend that
beauty is a snare; that love is a Delilah; that the highway of joy is
the broad road, lined with flowers and filled with perfume, leading to
the city of eternal sorrow.

Since the year 1855 the American people have developed; they are
somewhat acquainted with the literature of the world.  They have
witnessed the most tremendous of revolutions, not only upon the fields
of battle, but in the world of thought.  The American citizen has
concluded that it is hardly worth while being a sovereign unless he has
the right to think for himself.

And now, from this hight, with the vantage-ground of to-day, I propose
to examine this book and to state, in a general way, what Walt Whitman
has done, what he has accomplished, and the place he has won in the
world of thought.



II.

THE RELIGION OF THE BODY.

Walt Whitman stood, when he published his book, where all stand
to-night--on the perpetually moving line where history ends and
prophecy begins.  He was full of life to the very tips of his
fingers--brave, eager, candid, joyous with health.  He was acquainted
with the past.  He knew something of song and story, of philosophy and
art--much of the heroic dead, of brave suffering, of the thoughts of
men, the habits of the people--rich as well as poor--familiar with
labor, a friend of wind and wave, touched by love and
friendship--liking the open road, enjoying the fields and paths, the
crags--friend of the forest--feeling that he was free--neither master
nor slave--willing that all should know his thoughts--open as the sky,
candid as nature--and he gave his thoughts, his dreams, his
conclusions, his hopes, and his mental portrait to his fellow-men.

Walt Whitman announced the gospel of the body.  He confronted the
people.  He denied the depravity of man.  He insisted that love is not
a crime; that men and women should be proudly natural; that they need
not grovel on the earth and cover their faces for shame.  He taught the
dignity and glory of the father and mother; the sacredness of maternity.

Maternity, tender and pure as the tear of pity, holy as suffering--the
crown, the flower, the ecstasy of love.

People had been taught from bibles and from creeds that maternity was a
kind of crime; that the woman should be purified by some ceremony in
some temple built in honor of some god.  This barbarism was attacked in
"Leaves of Grass."

The glory of simple life was sung; a declaration of independence was
made for each and all.

And yet this appeal to manhood and to womanhood was misunderstood.  It
was denounced simply because it was in harmony with the great trend of
nature.  To me, the most obscene word in our language is celibacy.

It was not the fashion for people to speak or write their thoughts.  We
were flooded with the literature of hypocrisy.  The writers did not
faithfully describe the worlds in which they lived.  They endeavored to
make a fashionable world.  They pretended that the cottage or the hut
in which they dwelt was a palace, and they called the little area in
which they threw their slops their domain, their realm, their empire.
They were ashamed of the real, of what their world actually was.  They
imitated; that is to say, they told lies, and these lies filled the
literature of most lands.

Walt Whitman defended the sacredness of love, the purity of
passion--the passion that builds every home and fills the world with
art and song.

They cried out: "He is a defender of passion--he is a libertine!  He
lives in the mire.  He lacks spirituality!"

Whoever differs with the multitude, especially with a led
multitude--that is to say, with a multitude of taggers--will find out
from their leaders that he has committed an unpardonable sin.  It is a
crime to travel a road of your own, especially if you put up
guide-boards for the information of others.

Many, many centuries ago Epicurus, the greatest man of his century, and
of many centuries before and after, said: "Happiness is the only good;
happiness is the supreme end."  This man was temperate, frugal,
generous, noble--and yet through all these years he has been denounced
by the hypocrites of the world as a mere eater and drinker.

It was said that Whitman had exaggerated the importance of love--that
he had made too much of this passion.  Let me say that no poet--not
excepting Shakespeare--has had imagination enough to exaggerate the
importance of human love--a passion that contains all hights and all
depths--ample as space, with a sky in which glitter all constellations,
and that has within it all storms, all lightnings, all wrecks and
ruins, all griefs, all sorrows, all shadows, and all the joy and
sunshine of which the heart and brain are capable.

No writer must be measured by a word or paragraph.  He is to be
measured by his work--by the tendency, not of one line, but by the
tendency of all.

Which way does the great stream tend?  Is it for good or evil?  Are the
motives high and noble, or low and infamous?

We cannot measure Shakespeare by a few lines, neither can we measure
the Bible by a few chapters, nor "Leaves of Grass" by a few paragraphs.
In each there are many things that I neither approve nor believe--but
in all books you will find a mingling of wisdom and foolishness, of
prophecies and mistakes--in other words, among the excellencies there
will be defects.  The mine is not all gold, or all silver, or all
diamonds--there are baser metals.  The trees of the forest are not all
of one size.  On some of the highest there are dead and useless limbs,
and there may be growing beneath the bushes, weeds, and now and then a
poisonous vine.

If I were to edit the great books of the world, I might leave out some
lines and I might leave out the best.  I have no right to make of my
brain a sieve and say that only that which passes through belongs to
the rest of the human race.  I claim the right to choose.  I give that
right to all.

Walt Whitman had the courage to express his thought--the candor to tell
the truth.  And here let me say it gives me joy--a kind of perfect
satisfaction--to look above the bigoted bats, the satisfied owls and
wrens and chickadees, and see the great eagle poised, circling higher
and higher, unconscious of their existence.  And it gives me joy, a
kind of perfect satisfaction, to look above the petty passions and
jealousies of small and respectable people--above the considerations of
place and power and reputation, and see a brave, intrepid man.

It must be remembered that the American people had separated from the
Old World--that we had declared not only the independence of colonies,
but the independence of the individual.  We had done more--we had
declared that the state could no longer be ruled by the Church, and
that the Church could not be ruled by the state, and that the
individual could not be ruled by the Church.  These declarations were
in danger of being forgotten.  We needed a new voice, sonorous, loud
and clear, a new poet for America for the new epoch, somebody to chant
the morning song of the new day.

The great man who gives a true transcript of his mind, fascinates and
instructs.  Most writers suppress individuality.  They wish to please
the public.  They flatter the stupid and pander to the prejudice of
their readers.  They write for the market--making books as other
mechanics make shoes.  They have no message--they bear no torch--they
are simply the slaves of customers.  The books they manufacture are
handled by "the trade;" they are regarded as harmless.  The pulpit does
not object; the young person can read the monotonous pages without a
blush--or a thought.  On the title pages of these books you will find
the imprint of the great publishers--on the rest of the pages, nothing.
These books might be prescribed for insomnia.



III.

Men of talent, men of business, touch life upon few sides.  They travel
but the beaten path.  The creative spirit is not in them.  They regard
with suspicion a poet who touches life on every side.  They have little
confidence in that divine thing called sympathy, and they do not and
cannot understand the man who enters into the hopes, the aims, and the
feelings of all others.

In all genius there is the touch of chaos--a little of the vagabond;
and the successful tradesman, the man who buys and sells, or manages a
bank, does not care to deal with a person who has only poems for
collaterals--they have a little fear of such people, and regard them as
the awkward countryman does a sleight-of-hand performer.

In every age in which books have been produced the governing class, the
respectable, have been opposed to the works of real genius.  If what
are known as the best people could have had their way, if the pulpit
had been consulted--the provincial moralists--the works of Shakespeare
would have been suppressed.  Not a line would have reached our time.
And the same may be said of every dramatist of his age.

If the Scotch Kirk could have decided, nothing would have been known of
Robert Burns.  If the good people, the orthodox, could have had their
say, not one line of Voltaire would now be known.  All the plates of
the French Encyclopedia would have been destroyed with the thousands
that were destroyed.  Nothing would have been known of D'Alembert,
Grimm, Diderot, or any of the Titans who warred against the thrones and
altars and laid the foundation of modern literature not only, but what
is of far greater moment, universal education.

It is not too much to say that every book now held in high esteem would
have been destroyed, if those in authority could have had their will.
Every book of modern times, that has a real value, that has enlarged
the intellectual horizon of mankind, that has developed the brain, that
has furnished real food for thought, can be found in the Index
Expurgatorius of the Papacy, and nearly every one has been commended to
the free minds of men by the denunciations of Protestants.

If the guardians of society, the protectors of "young persons," could
have had their way, we should have known nothing of Byron or Shelley.
The voices that thrill the world would now be silent.  If authority
could have had its way, the world would have been as ignorant now as it
was when our ancestors lived in holes or hung from dead limbs by their
prehensile tails.

But we are not forced to go very far back.  If Shakespeare had been
published for the first time now, those divine plays--greater than
continents and seas, greater even than the constellations of the
midnight sky--would be excluded from the mails by the decision of the
present enlightened postmaster-general.

The poets have always lived in an ideal world, and that ideal world has
always been far better than the real world.  As a consequence, they
have forever roused, not simply the imagination, but the energies--the
enthusiasm of the human race.

The great poets have been on the side of the oppressed--of the
downtrodden.  They have suffered with the imprisoned and the enslaved,
and whenever and wherever man has suffered for the right, wherever the
hero has been stricken down--whether on field or scaffold--some man of
genius has walked by his side, and some poet has given form and
expression, not simply to his deeds, but to his aspirations.

From the Greek and Roman world we still hear the voices of a few.  The
poets, the philosophers, the artists and the orators still speak.
Countless millions have been covered by the waves of oblivion, but the
few who uttered the elemental truths, who had sympathy for the whole
human race, and who were great enough to prophesy a grander day, are as
alive to-night as when they roused, by their bodily presence, by their
living voices, by their works of art, the enthusiasm of their fellow
men.

Think of the respectable people, of the men of wealth and position,
those who dwelt in mansions, children of success, who went down to the
grave voiceless, and whose names we do not know.  Think of the vast
multitudes, the endless processions, that entered the caverns of
eternal night--leaving no thought--no truth as a legacy to mankind!

The great poets have sympathized with the people.  They have uttered in
all ages the human cry.  Unbought by gold, unawed by power, they have
lifted high the torch that illuminates the world.



IV.

Walt Whitman is in the highest sense a believer in democracy.  He knows
that there is but one excuse for government--the preservation of
liberty; to the end that man may be happy.  He knows that there is but
one excuse for any institution, secular and religious--the preservation
of liberty; and that there is but one excuse for schools, for universal
education, for the ascertainment of facts, namely, the preservation of
liberty.  He resents the arrogance and cruelty of power.  He has sworn
never to be tyrant or slave.  He has solemnly declared:


  I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy,
  By God!  I will accept nothing which all cannot have their
        counterpart of on the same terms.


This one declaration covers the entire ground.  It is a declaration of
independence, and it is also a declaration of justice, that is to say,
a declaration of the independence of the individual, and a declaration
that all shall be free.  The man who has this spirit can truthfully say:

  I have taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown.
  I am for those that have never been master'd.


There is in Whitman what he calls "The boundless impatience of
restraint"--together with that sense of justice which compelled him to
say, "Neither a servant nor a master am I."

He was wise enough to know that giving others the same rights that he
claims for himself could not harm him, and he was great enough to say:
"As if it were not indispensable to my own rights that others possess
the same."

He felt as all should feel, that the liberty of no man is safe unless
the liberty of each is safe.

There is in our country a little of the old servile spirit, a little of
the bowing and cringing to others.  Many Americans do not understand
that the officers of the government are simply the servants of the
people.  Nothing is so demoralizing as the worship of place.  Whitman
has reminded the people of this country that they are supreme, and he
has said to them:

  The President is there in the White House for you, it is not
        you who are here for him,
  The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them.
  Doctrines, politics and civilization exurge from you,
  Sculpture and monuments and any thing inscribed anywhere
        are tallied in you.


He describes the ideal American citizen--the one who

  Says indifferently and alike "How are you, friend?" to the
        President at his levee,
  And he says "Good-day, my brother," to Cudge that hoes in
        the sugar-field.


Long ago, when the politicians were wrong, when the judges were
subservient, when the pulpit was a coward, Walt Whitman shouted:

  Man shall not hold property in man.
  The least developed person on earth is just as important and
      sacred to himself or herself as the most develop'd person
      is to himself or herself.


This is the very soul of true democracy.

Beauty is not all there is of poetry.  It must contain the truth.  It
is not simply an oak, rude and grand, neither is it simply a vine.  It
is both.  Around the oak of truth runs the vine of beauty.

Walt Whitman utters the elemental truths and is the poet of democracy.
He is also the poet of individuality.



V.

INDIVIDUALITY.

In order to protect the liberties of a nation, we must protect the
individual.  A democracy is a nation of free individuals.  The
individuals are not to be sacrificed to the nation.  The nation exists
only for the purpose of guarding and protecting the individuality of
men and women.  Walt Whitman has told us that: "The whole theory of the
universe is directed unerringly to one single individual--namely to
You."

And he has also told us that the greatest city--the greatest nation--is
"where the citizen is always the head and ideal."

And that

  A great city is that which has the greatest men and women,
  If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in
      the whole world.


By this test maybe the greatest city on the continent to-night is
Camden.

This poet has asked of us this question:

  What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk
      free and own no superior?


The man who asks this question has left no impress of his lips in the
dust, and has no dirt upon his knees.

He was great enough to say:

  The soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every
      lesson but its own.


He carries the idea of individuality to its utmost hight:

  What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred
      ways, but that man or woman is as good as God?
  And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?


Glorying in individuality, in the freedom of the soul, he cries out:

  O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted!
  To be entirely alone with them, to find how much one can stand!
  To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to face!
  To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns
      with perfect nonchalance!
  To be indeed a God!


And again;

  O the joy of a manly self-hood!
  To be servile to none, to defer to none, not to any tyrant
      known or unknown,
  To walk with erect carriage, a step springy and elastic,
  To look with calm gaze or with a flashing eye,
  To speak with full and sonorous voice out of a broad chest.
  To confront with your personality all the other personalities of
      the earth.


Walt Whitman is willing to stand alone.  He is sufficient unto himself,
and he says:

  Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune.
      *      *      *      *      *
  Strong and content I travel the open road.


He is one of

  Those that look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and
      Governors, as to say "Who are you?"


And not only this, but he has the courage to say: "Nothing, not God, is
greater to one than one's self."

Walt Whitman is the poet of Individuality--the defender of the rights
of each for the sake of all--and his sympathies are as wide as the
world.  He is the defender of the whole race.



VI.

HUMANITY.

The great poet is intensely human--infinitely sympathetic--entering
into the joys and griefs of others, bearing their burdens, knowing
their sorrows.  Brain without heart is not much; they must act
together.  When the respectable people of the North, the rich, the
successful, were willing to carry out the Fugitive Slave law, Walt
Whitman said:

  I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,
  Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen,
  I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn'd with
      the ooze of my skin,
  I fall on the weeds and stones,
  The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,
  Taunt my dizzy ears, and beat me violently over the head
      with whip-stocks.
  Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
  I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself
      become the wounded person....
  I ... see myself in prison shaped like another man,
  And feel the dull unintermitted pain.

  For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep watch,
  It is I let out in the morning and barr'd at night.

  Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd
      to him and walk by his side.
      *      *      *      *      *
  Judge not as the judge judges, but as the sun falling upon a
      helpless thing.


Of the very worst he had the infinite tenderness to say: "Not until the
sun excludes you will I exclude you."

In this age of greed when houses and lands, and stocks and bonds,
outrank human life; when gold is more of value than blood, these words
should be read by all:

  When the psalm sings instead of the singer,
  When the script preaches instead of the preacher,
  When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the carver that
      carved the supporting desk.
  When I can touch the body of books by night or day, and
      when they touch my body back again,
  When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman
      and child convince,
  When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the
      night-watchman's daughter,
  When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite and are my
      friendly companions,
  I intend to reach them my hand, and make as much of them
      as I do of men and women like you.



VII.

The poet is also a painter, a sculptor--he, too, deals in form and
color.  The great poet is of necessity a great artist.  With a few
words he creates pictures, filling his canvas with living men and
women--with those who feel and speak.  Have you ever read the account
of the stage-driver's funeral?  Let me read it:

  Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf, posh and ice in the
      river, half-frozen mud in the streets,
  A gray discouraged sky overhead, the short last daylight of December,
  A hearse and stages, the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver,
      the cortege mostly drivers.

  Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell,
  The gate is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living
      alight, the hearse uncloses,
  The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid
      on the coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in,
  The mound above is flatted with the spades--silence,
  A minute--no one moves or speaks--it is done,
  He is decently put away--is there any thing more?

  He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad-looking,
  Ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled,
      ate hearty, drank hearty,
  Had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
      toward the last, sicken'd, was helped by a contribution,
  Died, aged forty-one years--and that was his funeral.


Let me read you another description--one of a woman:

  Behold a woman!
  She looks out from her quaker cap, her face is clearer and
      more beautiful than the sky.

  She sits in an armchair under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
  The sun just shines on her old white head.

  Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,
  Her grandsons raised the flax, and her grand-daughters
      spun it with the distaff and the wheel.

  The melodious character of the earth,
  The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go and does
      not wish to go,
  The justified mother of men.


Would you hear of an old-time sea fight?

  Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars?
  List to the yarn, as my grandmother's father the sailor told it to me.

  Our foe was no skulk in his ship I tell you, (said he,)
  His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher
      or truer, and never was, and never will be;
  Along the lower'd eve he came horribly raking us.

  We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touched,
  My captain lash'd fast with his own hands.

  We had receiv'd some eighteen pound shots under the water,
  On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the
      first fire, killing all around and blowing up overhead.

  Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark,
  Ten o'clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the
      gain, and five feet of water reported,
  The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold
      to give them a chance for themselves.

  The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels,
  They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust

  Our frigate takes fire,
  The other asks if we demand quarter?
  If our colors are struck and the fighting done?

  Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain,
  "We have not struck," he composedly cries, "we have just
      begun our part of the fighting."

  Only three guns are in use,
  One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy's mainmast,
  Two well serv'd with grape and canister silence his musketry
      and clear his decks.

  The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially
      the main-top,
  They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.

  Not a moment's cease,
  The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the
      powder-magazine.

  One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally
      thought we are sinking.
  Serene stands the little captain,
  He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,
  His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.

  Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us.
  Stretch'd and still lies the midnight,
  Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
  Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass
      to the one we have conquer'd,
  The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders
      through a countenance white as a sheet,
  Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin,
  The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
      curl'd whiskers,
  The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
  The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
  Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of
      flesh upon the masts and spars,
  Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe
      of waves,
  Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
  A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
  Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields
      by the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
  The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
  Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and
      long, dull, tapering groan.


Some people say that this is not poetry--that it lacks measure and
rhyme.



VIII.

WHAT IS POETRY?

The whole world is engaged in the invisible commerce of thought.  That
is to say, in the exchange of thoughts by words, symbols, sounds,
colors and forms.  The motions of the silent, invisible world, where
feeling glows and thought flames--that contains all seeds of
action--are made known only by sounds and colors, forms, objects,
relations, uses and qualities--so that the visible universe is a
dictionary, an aggregation of symbols, by which and through which is
carried on the invisible commerce of thought.  Each object is capable
of many meanings, or of being used in many ways to convey ideas or
states of feeling or of facts that take place in the world of the brain.

The greatest poet is the one who selects the best, the most appropriate
symbols to convey the best, the highest, the sublimest thoughts.  Each
man occupies a world of his own.  He is the only citizen of his world.
He is subject and sovereign, and the best he can do is to give the
facts concerning the world in which he lives to the citizens of other
worlds.  No two of these worlds are alike.  They are of all kinds, from
the flat, barren, and uninteresting--from the small and shriveled and
worthless--to those whose rivers and mountains and seas and
constellations belittle and cheapen the visible world.  The inhabitants
of these marvelous worlds have been the singers of songs, utterers of
great speech--the creators of art.

And here lies the difference between creators and imitators: the
creator tells what passes in his own world--the imitator does not.  The
imitator abdicates, and by the fact of imitation falls upon his knees.
He is like one who, hearing a traveler talk, pretends to others that he
has traveled.

In nearly all lands, the poet has been privileged--for the sake of
beauty, they have allowed him to speak, and for that reason he has told
the story of the oppressed, and has excited the indignation of honest
men and even the pity of tyrants.  He, above all others, has added to
the intellectual beauty of the world.  He has been the true creator of
language, and has left his impress on mankind.

What I have said is not only true of poetry--it is true of all speech.
All are compelled to use the visible world as a dictionary.  Words have
been invented and are being invented--for the reason that new powers
are found in the old symbols, new qualities, relations, uses and
meanings.  The growth of language is necessary on account of the
development of the human mind.  The savage needs but few symbols--the
civilized many--the poet most of all.

The old idea was, however, that the poet must be a rhymer.  Before
printing was known, it was said: the rhyme assists the memory.  That
excuse no longer exists.

Is rhyme a necessary part of poetry?  In my judgment, rhyme is a
hindrance to expression.  The rhymer is compelled to wander from his
subject--to say more or less than he means--to introduce irrelevant
matter that interferes continually with the dramatic action and is a
perpetual obstruction to sincere utterance.

All poems, of necessity, must be short.  The highly and purely poetic
is the sudden bursting into blossom of a great and tender thought.  The
planting of the seed, the growth, the bud and flower must be rapid.
The spring must be quick and warm--the soil perfect, the sunshine and
rain enough--everything should tend to hasten, nothing to delay.  In
poetry, as in wit, the crystallization must be sudden.

The greatest poems are rhythmical.  While rhyme is a hindrance, rhythm
seems to be the comrade of the poetic.  Rhythm has a natural
foundation.  Under emotion, the blood rises and falls, the muscles
contract and relax, and this action of the blood is as rhythmical as
the rise and fall of the sea.  In the highest form of expression, the
thought should be in harmony with this natural ebb and flow.

The highest poetic truth is expressed in rhythmical form.  I have
sometimes thought that an idea selects its own words, chooses its own
garments, and that when the thought has possession, absolutely, of the
speaker or writer, he unconsciously allows the thought to clothe itself.

The great poetry of the world keeps time with the winds and the waves.

I do not mean by rhythm a recurring accent at accurately measured
intervals.  Perfect time is the death of music.  There should always be
room for eager haste and delicious delay, and whatever change there may
be in the rhythm or time, the action itself should suggest perfect
freedom.

A word more about rhythm.  I believe that certain feelings and
passions--joy, grief, emulation, revenge, produce certain molecular
movements in the brain--that every thought is accompanied by certain
physical phenomena.  Now it may be that certain sounds, colors, and
forms produce the same molecular action in the brain that accompanies
certain feelings, and that these sounds, colors and forms produce
first, the molecular movements and these in their turn reproduce the
feelings, emotions and states of mind capable of producing the same or
like molecular movements.  So that what we call heroic music, produces
the same molecular action in the brain--the same physical changes--that
are produced by the real feeling of heroism; that the sounds we call
plaintive produce the same molecular movement in the brain that grief,
or the twilight of grief, actually produces.  There may be a rhythmical
molecular movement belonging to each state of mind, that accompanies
each thought or passion, and it may be that music, or painting, or
sculpture, produces the same state of mind or feeling that produces the
music or painting or sculpture, by producing the same molecular
movements.

All arts are born of the same spirit, and express like thoughts in
different ways--that is to say, they produce like states of mind and
feeling.  The sculptor, the painter, the composer, the poet, the
orator, work to the same end, with different materials.  The painter
expresses through form and color and relation; the sculptor through
form and relation.  The poet also paints and chisels--his words give
form, relation and color.  His statues and his paintings do not
crumble, neither do they fade, nor will they as long as language
endures.  The composer touches the passions, produces the very states
of feeling produced by the painter and sculptor, the poet and orator.
In all these there must be rhythm--that is to say, proportion--that is
to say, harmony, melody.

So that the greatest poet is the one who idealizes the common, who
gives new meanings to old symbols, who transfigures the ordinary things
of life.  He must deal with the hopes and fears, and with the
experiences of the people.

The poetic is not the exceptional.  A perfect poem is like a perfect
day.  It has the undefinable charm of naturalness and ease.  It must
not appear to be the result of great labor.  We feel, in spite of
ourselves, that man does best that which he does easiest.

The great poet is the instrumentality, not always of his time, but of
the best of his time, and he must be in unison and accord with the
ideals of his race.  The sublimer he is, the simpler he is.  The
thoughts of the people must be clad in the garments of feeling--the
words must be known, apt, familiar.  The bight must be in the thought,
in the sympathy.

In the olden time they used to have May day parties, and the prettiest
child was crowned Queen of May.  Imagine an old blacksmith and his wife
looking at their little daughter clad in white and crowned with roses.
They would wonder while they looked at her, how they ever came to have
so beautiful a child.  It is thus that the poet clothes the
intellectual children or ideals of the people.  They must not be gemmed
and garlanded beyond the recognition of their parents.  Out from all
the flowers and beauty must look the eyes of the child they know.

We have grown tired of gods and goddesses in art.  Milton's heavenly
militia excites our laughter.  Light-houses have driven sirens from the
dangerous coasts.  We have found that we do not depend on the
imagination for wonders--there are millions of miracles under our feet.

Nothing can be more marvelous than the common and everyday facts of
life.  The phantoms have been cast aside.  Men and women are enough for
men and women.  In their lives is all the tragedy and all the comedy
that they can comprehend.

The painter no longer crowds his canvas with the winged and
impossible--he paints life as he sees it, people as he knows them, and
in whom he is interested.  "The Angelus," the perfection of pathos, is
nothing but two peasants bending their heads in thankfulness as they
hear the solemn sound of the distant bell--two peasants, who have
nothing to be thankful for--nothing but weariness and want, nothing but
the crusts that they soften with their tears--nothing.  And yet as you
look at that picture you feel that they have something besides to be
thankful for--that they have life, love, and hope--and so the distant
bell makes music in their simple hearts.



IX.

The attitude of Whitman toward religion has not been understood.
Towards all forms of worship, towards all creeds, he has maintained the
attitude of absolute fairness.  He does not believe that Nature has
given her last message to man.  He does not believe that all has been
ascertained.  He denies that any sect has written down the entire
truth.  He believes in progress, and, so believing, he says:

  We consider bibles and religions divine--I do not say they
      are not divine,
  I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow out of
      you still,
  It is not they who give the life, it is you who give the life.
      *      *      *      *      *
  His [the poet's] thoughts are the hymns of the praise of things,
  In the dispute on God and eternity he is silent.
      *      *      *      *      *
  Have you thought there could be but a single supreme?
  There can be any number of supremes--one does not countervail
      another any more than one eyesight countervails another.


Upon the great questions, as to the great problems, he feels only the
serenity of a great and well-poised soul.

  No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about
      God and about death.

  I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God
      not in the least,
  Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself....
  In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own
      face in the glass,
  I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one
      is sign'd by God's name.


The whole visible world is regarded by him as a revelation, and so is
the invisible world, and with this feeling he writes:

  Not objecting to special revelations--considering a curl of
      smoke or a hair on the back of my hand just as
      curious as any revelation.


The creeds do not satisfy, the old mythologies are not enough; they are
too narrow at best, giving only hints and suggestions; and feeling this
lack in that which has been written and preached, Whitman says:

  Magnifying and applying come I,
  Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
  Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
  Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,
  Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,
  In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the
      crucifix engraved,
  With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli, and every idol and image,
  Taking them all for what they are worth, and not a cent more.


Whitman keeps open house.  He is intellectually hospitable.  He extends
his hand to a new idea.  He does not accept a creed because it is
wrinkled and old and has a long white beard.  He knows that hypocrisy
has a venerable look, and that it relies on looks and masks--on
stupidity--and fear.  Neither does he reject or accept the new because
it is new.  He wants the truth, and so he welcomes all until he knows
just who and what they are.



X.

PHILOSOPHY.

Walt Whitman is a philosopher.

The more a man has thought, the more he has studied, the more he has
traveled intellectually, the less certain he is.  Only the very
ignorant are perfectly satisfied that they know.  To the common man the
great problems are easy.  He has no trouble in accounting for the
universe.  He can tell you the origin and destiny of man and the why
and the wherefore of things.  As a rule, he is a believer in special
providence, and is egotistic enough to suppose that everything that
happens in the universe happens in reference to him.

A colony of red ants lived at the foot of the Alps.  It happened one
day, that an avalanche destroyed the hill; and one of the ants was
heard to remark: "Who could have taken so much trouble to destroy our
home?"

Walt Whitman walked by the side of the sea "where the fierce old mother
endlessly cries for her castaways," and endeavored to think out, to
fathom the mystery of being; and he said:

  I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
  A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
  Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift
      *      *      *      *      *
  Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon
      me I have not once had the least idea who or what I am,
  But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands
      yet untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
  Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
  With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
  Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath....
  I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single
      object, and that no man ever can.


There is in our language no profounder poem than the one entitled
"Elemental Drifts."

The effort to find the origin has ever been, and will forever be,
fruitless.  Those who endeavor to find the secret of life resemble a
man looking in the mirror, who thinks that if he only could be quick
enough he could grasp the image that he sees behind the glass.

The latest word of this poet upon this subject is as follows:

"To me this life with all its realities and functions is finally a
mystery, the real something yet to be evolved, and the stamp and shape
and life here somehow giving an important, perhaps the main, outline to
something further.  Somehow this hangs over everything else, and stands
behind it, is inside of all facts, and the concrete and material, and
the worldly affairs of life and sense.  That is the purport and meaning
behind all the other meanings of LEAVES OF GRASS."

As a matter of fact, the questions of origin and destiny are beyond the
grasp of the human mind.  We can see a certain distance; beyond that,
everything is indistinct; and beyond the indistinct is the unseen.  In
the presence of these mysteries--and everything is a mystery so far as
origin, destiny, and nature are concerned--the intelligent, honest man
is compelled to say, "I do not know."

In the great midnight a few truths like stars shine on forever--and
from the brain of man come a few struggling gleams of light--a few
momentary sparks.

Some have contended that everything is spirit; others that everything
is matter; and again, others have maintained that a part is matter and
a part is spirit; some that spirit was first and matter after; others
that matter was first and spirit after; and others that matter and
spirit have existed together.

But none of these people can by any possibility tell what matter is, or
what spirit is, or what the difference is between spirit and matter.

The materialists look upon the spiritualists as substantially crazy;
and the spiritualists regard the materialists as low and groveling.
These spiritualistic people hold matter in contempt; but, after all,
matter is quite a mystery.  You take in your hand a little earth--a
little dust.  Do you know what it is?  In this dust you put a seed; the
rain falls upon it; the light strikes it; the seed grows; it bursts
into blossom; it produces fruit.

What is this dust--this womb?  Do you understand it?  Is there anything
in the wide universe more wonderful than this?

Take a grain of sand, reduce it to powder, take the smallest possible
particle, look at it with a microscope, contemplate its every part for
days, and it remains the citadel of a secret--an impregnable fortress.
Bring all the theologians, philosophers, and scientists in serried
ranks against it; let them attack on every side with all the arts and
arms of thought and force.  The citadel does not fall.  Over the
battlements floats the flag, and the victorious secret smiles at the
baffled hosts.

Walt Whitman did not and does not imagine that he has reached the
limit--the end of the road traveled by the human race.  He knows that
every victory over nature is but the preparation for another battle.
This truth was in his mind when he said: "Understand me well; it is
provided in the essence of things, that from any fruition of success,
no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle
necessary."

This is the generalization of all history.



XI.

THE TWO POEMS.

There are two of these poems to which I have time to call special
attention.  The first is entitled, "A Word Out of the Sea."

The boy, coming out of the rocked cradle, wandering over the sands and
fields, up from the mystic play of shadows, out of the patches of
briers and blackberries--from the memories of birds--from the thousand
responses of his heart--goes back to the sea and his childhood, and
sings a reminiscence.

Two guests from Alabama--two birds--build their nest, and there were
four light green eggs, spotted with brown, and the two birds sang for
joy:

  Shine! shine! shine!
  Pour down your warmth, great sun!
  While we bask, we two together.
  Two together!
  Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
  Day come white, or night come black,
  Home, or rivers and mountains from home,
  Singing all time, minding no time,
  While we two keep together.


In a little while one of the birds is missed and never appeared again,
and all through the summer the mate, the solitary guest, was singing of
the lost:

  Blow! blow! blow!
  Blow up sea-winds along Paumanok's shore;
  I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me.


And the boy that night, blending himself with the shadows, with bare
feet, went down to the sea, where the white arms out in the breakers
were tirelessly tossing; listening to the songs and translating the
notes.

And the singing bird called loud and high for the mate, wondering what
the dusky spot was in the brown and yellow, seeing the mate whichever
way he looked, piercing the woods and the earth with his song, hoping
that the mate might hear his cry; stopping that he might not lose her
answer; waiting and then crying again: "Here I am!  And this gentle
call is for you.  Do not be deceived by the whistle of the wind; those
are the shadows;" and at last crying:

  O past!  O happy life!  O songs of joy!
  In the air, in the woods, over fields,
  Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
  But my mate no more, no more with me!
  We two together no more.


And then the boy, understanding the song that had awakened in his
breast a thousand songs clearer and louder and more sorrowful than the
bird's, knowing that the cry of unsatisfied love would never again be
absent from him; thinking then of the destiny of all, and asking of the
sea the final word, and the sea answering, delaying not and hurrying
not, spoke the low delicious word "Death!" "ever Death!"

The next poem, one that will live as long as our language, entitled:
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," is on the death of Lincoln,

  The sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands.


One who reads this will never forget the odor of the lilac, "the
lustrous western star" and "the grey-brown bird singing in the pines
and cedars."

In this poem the dramatic unities are perfectly preserved, the
atmosphere and climate in harmony with every event.

Never will he forget the solemn journey of the coffin through day and
night, with the great cloud darkening the land, nor the pomp of
inlooped flags, the processions long and winding, the flambeaus of
night, the torches' flames, the silent sea of faces, the unbared heads,
the thousand voices rising strong and solemn, the dirges, the
shuddering organs, the tolling bells--and the sprig of lilac.

And then for a moment they will hear the grey-brown bird singing in the
cedars, bashful and tender, while the lustrous star lingers in the
West, and they will remember the pictures hung on the chamber walls to
adorn the burial house--pictures of spring and farms and homes, and the
grey smoke lucid and bright, and the floods of yellow gold--of the
gorgeous indolent sinking sun--the sweet herbage under foot--the green
leaves of the trees prolific--the breast of the river with the
wind-dapple here and there, and the varied and ample land--and the most
excellent sun so calm and haughty--the violet and purple morn with
just-felt breezes--the gentle soft born measureless light--the miracle
spreading, bathing all--the fulfill'd noon--the coming eve delicious
and the welcome night and the stars.

And then again they will hear the song of the grey-brown bird in the
limitless dusk amid the cedars and pines.  Again they will remember the
star, and again the odor of the lilac.

But most of all, the song of the bird translated and becoming the chant
for death:

  A CHANT FOR DEATH.

  Come lovely and soothing death,
  Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
  In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
  Sooner or later delicate death.

  Prais'd be the fathomless universe,
  For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
  And for love, sweet love--but praise! praise! praise!
  For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.

  Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
  Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
  Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
  I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come
      unfalteringly.

  Approach strong deliveress,
  When it is so, when thou hast taken them I joyously sing the dead,
  Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
  Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death.

  From me to thee glad serenades,
  Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and
      feastings for thee,
  And the sights of the open landscape and the high spread
      sky are fitting,
  And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

  The night in silence under many a star,
  The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
  And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil'd death,
  And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

  Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
  Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields
      and the prairies wide,
  Over the dense-pack'd cities all and the teeming wharves and ways,
  I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee O death.


This poem, in memory of "the sweetest, wisest soul of all our days and
lands," and for whose sake lilac and star and bird entwined, will last
as long as the memory of Lincoln.



XII.

OLD AGE.

Walt Whitman is not only the poet of childhood, of youth, of manhood,
but, above all, of old age.  He has not been soured by slander or
petrified by prejudice; neither calumny nor flattery has made him
revengeful or arrogant.  Now sitting by the fireside, in the winter of
life,

  His jocund heart still beating in his breast,

he is just as brave and calm and kind as in his manhood's proudest
days, when roses blossomed in his cheeks.  He has taken life's seven
steps.  Now, as the gamester might say, "on velvet."  He is enjoying
"old age expanded, broad, with the haughty breadth of the universe; old
age, flowing free, with the delicious near-by freedom of death; old
age, superbly rising, welcoming the ineffable aggregation of dying
days."

He is taking the "loftiest look at last," and before he goes he utters
thanks:

  For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air--for life, mere life,
  For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother
      dear you, father--you, brothers, sisters, friends.)
  For all my days--not those of peace alone the days of war the same,
  For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands,
  For shelter, wine and meat--for sweet appreciation,
  (You distant, dim unknown--or young or old--countless, unspecified,
      readers belov'd,
  We never met, and ne'er shall meet--and yet our souls embrace,
      long, close and long.)
  For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books--for colors, forms,
  For all the brave strong men--devoted, hardy men--who've
      forward sprung in freedom's help, all years, all lands,
  For braver, stronger, more devoted men (a special laurel ere
      I go, to life's war's chosen ones,
  The cannoneers of song and thought--the great artillerists--the
      foremost leaders, captains of the soul).


It is a great thing to preach philosophy--far greater to live it.  The
highest philosophy accepts the inevitable with a smile, and greets it
as though it were desired.

To be satisfied: This is wealth--success.

The real philosopher knows that everything has happened that could have
happened--consequently he accepts.  He is glad that he has lived--glad
that he has had his moment on the stage.  In this spirit Whitman has
accepted life.

  I shall go forth,
  I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither
      or how long,
  Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my
      voice will suddenly cease.

  O book, O chants! must all then amount to but this?
  Must we barely arrive at this beginning of us?--and yet
      it is enough, O soul;
  O soul, we have positively appear'd--that is enough.


Yes, Walt Whitman has appeared.  He has his place upon the stage.  The
drama is not ended.  His voice is still heard.  He is the Poet of
Democracy--of all people.  He is the poet of the body and soul.  He has
sounded the note of Individuality.  He has given the pass-word
primeval.  He is the Poet of Humanity--of Intellectual Hospitality.  He
has voiced the aspirations of America--and, above all, he is the poet
of Love and Death.

How grandly, how bravely he has given his thought, and how superb is
his farewell--his leave-taking:

  After the supper and talk--after the day is done,
  As a friend from friends his final withdrawal prolonging,
  Good-bye and Good-bye with emotional lips repeating,
  (So hard for his hand to release those hands--no more will they meet,
  No more for communion of sorrow and joy, of old and young,
  A far-stretching journey awaits him, to return no more,)
  Shunning, postponing severance seeking to ward off the last
      word ever so little,
  E'en at the exit-door turning--charges superfluous calling
      back--e'en as he descends the steps,
  Something to eke out a minute additional--shadows of nightfall
      deepening,
  Farewells, messages lessening--dimmer the forthgoer's visage
      and form,
  Soon to be lost for aye in the darkness loth, O so loth to depart!


And is this all?  Will the forthgoer be lost, and forever?  Is death
the end?  Over the grave bends Love sobbing, and by her side stands
Hope and whispers:

We shall meet again.  Before all life is death, and after all death is
life.  The falling leaf, touched with the hectic flush, that testifies
of autumn's death, is, in a subtler sense, a prophecy of spring.

Walt Whitman has dreamed great dreams, told great truths and uttered
sublime thoughts.  He has held aloft the torch and bravely led the way.

As you read the marvelous book, or the person, called "Leaves of
Grass," you feel the freedom of the antique world; you hear the voices
of the morning, of the first great singers--voices elemental as those
of sea and storm.  The horizon enlarges, the heavens grow ample,
limitations are forgotten--the realization of the will, the
accomplishment of the ideal, seem to be within your power.
Obstructions become petty and disappear.  The chains and bars are
broken, and the distinctions of caste are lost.  The soul is in the
open air, under the blue and stars--the flag of Nature.  Creeds,
theories and philosophies ask to be examined, contradicted,
reconstructed.  Prejudices disappear, superstitions vanish and custom
abdicates.  The sacred places become highways, duties and desires clasp
hands and become comrades and friends.  Authority drops the scepter,
the priest the miter, and the purple falls from kings.  The inanimate
becomes articulate, the meanest and humblest things utter speech and
the dumb and voiceless burst into song.  A feeling of independence
takes possession of the soul, the body expands, the blood flows full
and free, superiors vanish, flattery is a lost art, and life becomes
rich, royal, and superb.  The world becomes a personal possession, and
the oceans, the continents, and constellations belong to you.  You are
in the center, everything radiates from you, and in your veins beats
and throbs the pulse of all life.  You become a rover, careless and
free.  You wander by the shores of all seas and hear the eternal psalm.
You feel the silence of the wide forest, and stand beneath the
intertwined and over arching boughs, entranced with symphonies of winds
and woods.  You are borne on the tides of eager and swift rivers, hear
the rush and roar of cataracts as they fall beneath the seven-hued
arch, and watch the eagles as they circling soar.  You traverse gorges
dark and dim, and climb the scarred and threatening cliffs.  You stand
in orchards where the blossoms fall like snow, where the birds nest and
sing, and painted moths make aimless journeys through the happy air.
You live the lives of those who till the earth, and walk amid the
perfumed fields, hear the reapers' song, and feel the breadth and scope
of earth and sky.  You are in the great cities, in the midst of
multitudes, of the endless processions.  You are on the wide
plains--the prairies--with hunter and trapper, with savage and pioneer,
and you feel the soft grass yielding under your feet.  You sail in many
ships, and breathe the free air of the sea.  You travel many roads, and
countless paths.  You visit palaces and prisons, hospitals and courts;
you pity kings and convicts, and your sympathy goes out to all the
suffering and insane, the oppressed and enslaved, and even to the
infamous.  You hear the din of labor, all sounds of factory, field, and
forest, of all tools, instruments and machines.  You become familiar
with men and women of all employments, trades and professions--with
birth and burial, with wedding feast and funeral chant.  You see the
cloud and flame of war, and you enjoy the ineffable perfect days of
peace.  In this one book, in these wondrous "Leaves of Grass," you find
hints and suggestions, touches and fragments, of all there is of life,
that lies between the babe, whose rounded cheeks dimple beneath his
mother's laughing, loving eyes, and the old man, snow-crowned, who,
with a smile, extends his hand to death.

We have met to-night to honor ourselves by honoring the author of
"Leaves of Grass."


[Illustration: Chapter XII tailpiece]



ADDRESS AT THE

Funeral of Walt Whitman

BY ROBERT O. INGERSOLL,

At Harleigh, Camden, New Jersey, March 30, 1892.


Again, we, in the mystery of Life, are brought face to face with the
mystery of Death.  A great man, a great American, the most eminent
citizen of this Republic, lies dead before us, and we have met to pay
tribute to his greatness and his worth.

I know he needs no words of mine.  His fame is secure.  He laid the
foundations of it deep in the human heart and brain.  He was, above all
I have known, the poet of humanity, of sympathy.  He was so great that
he rose above the greatest that he met without arrogance, and so great
that he stooped to the lowest without conscious condescension.  He
never claimed to be lower or greater than any of the sons of men.

He came into our generation a free, untrammeled spirit, with sympathy
for all.  His arm was beneath the form of the sick.  He sympathized
with the imprisoned and despised, and even on the brow of crime he was
great enough to place the kiss of human sympathy.

One of the greatest lines in our literature is his, and the line is
great enough to do honor to the greatest genius that has ever lived.
He said, speaking of an outcast: "Not until the sun excludes you will I
exclude you."

His charity was as wide as the sky, and wherever there was human
suffering, human misfortune, the sympathy of Whitman bent above it as
the firmament bends above the earth.

He was built on a broad and splendid plan--ample, without appearing to
have limitations--passing easily for a brother of mountains and seas
and constellations; caring nothing for the little maps and charts with
which timid pilots hug the shore, but giving himself freely with the
recklessness of genius to winds and waves and tides; caring for nothing
so long as the stars were above him.  He walked among men, among
writers, among verbal varnishers and veneerers, among literary
milliners and tailors, with the unconscious majesty of an antique god.

He was the poet of that divine democracy which gives equal rights to
all the sons and daughters of men.  He uttered the great American
voice; uttered a song worthy of the great Republic.  No man has ever
said more for the rights of humanity, more in favor of real democracy,
of real justice.  He neither scorned nor cringed; was neither tyrant
nor slave.  He asked only to stand the equal of his fellows beneath the
great flag of nature, the blue and stars.

He was the poet of life.  It was a joy simply to breathe.  He loved the
clouds; he enjoyed the breath of morning, the twilight, the wind, the
winding streams.  He loved to look at the sea when the waves burst into
the whitecaps of joy.  He loved the fields, the hills; he was
acquainted with the trees, with birds, with all the beautiful objects
of the earth.  He not only saw these objects, but understood their
meaning, and he used them that he might exhibit his heart to his
fellow-men.

He was the poet of Love.  He was not ashamed of that divine passion
that has built every home; that divine passion that has painted every
picture and given us every real work of art; that divine passion that
has made the world worth living in and has given some value to human
life.

He was the poet of the natural, and taught men not to be ashamed of
that which is natural.  He was not only the poet of democracy, not only
the poet of the great Republic, but he was the poet of the human race.
He was not confined to the limits of this country, but his sympathy
went out over the seas to all the nations of the earth.

He stretched out his hands and felt himself the equal of all kings and
of all princes, and the brother of all men, no matter how high, no
matter how low.

He has uttered more supreme words than any writer of our century,
possibly of almost any other.  He was, above all things, a man, and
above genius, above all the snow-capped peaks of intelligence, above
all art, rises the true man.

He was the poet of Death.  He accepted all life and all death, and he
justified all.  He had the courage to meet all, and was great enough
and splendid enough to harmonize all and to accept all there is as a
divine melody.

You know better than I what his life has been, but let me say one
thing: Knowing as he did, what others can know and what they can not,
he accepted and absorbed all theories, all creeds, all religions, and
believed in none.  His philosophy was a sky that embraced all clouds
and accounted for all clouds.  He had a philosophy and a religion of
his own, broader, as he believed--and as I believe--than others.  He
accepted all, he understood all, and he was above all.

He was absolutely true to himself.  He had frankness and courage, and
he was as candid as light.  He was willing that all the sons of men
should be absolutely acquainted with his heart and brain.  He had
nothing to conceal.  Frank, candid, pure, serene, noble, and yet for
years he was maligned and slandered, simply because he had the candor
of nature.  He will be understood yet, and that for which he was
condemned--his frankness, his candor--will add to the glory and
greatness of his fame.

He wrote a liturgy for mankind; he wrote a great and splendid psalm of
life, and he gave to us the gospel of humanity--the greatest gospel
that can be preached.

He was not afraid to live; not afraid to die.  For many years he and
Death lived near neighbors.  He was always willing and ready to meet
and greet this king called Death, and for many months he sat in the
deepening twilight waiting for the night; waiting for the light.

He never lost his hope.  When the mists filled the valleys, he looked
upon the mountain tops, and when the mountains in darkness disappeared,
fixed his gaze upon the stars.

In his brain were the blessed memories of the day and in his heart were
mingled the dawn and dusk of life.

He was not afraid; he was cheerful every moment.  The laughing nymphs
of day did not desert him.  They remained that they might clasp the
hands and greet with smiles the veiled and silent sisters of the night.
And when they did come, Walt Whitman stretched his hand to them.  On
one side were the nymphs of day, and on the other the silent sisters of
the night, and so, hand in hand, between smiles and tears, he reached
his journey's end.

From the frontier of life, from the western wave-kissed shore, he sent
us messages of content and hope, and these messages seem now like
strains of music blown by the "Mystic Trumpeter" from Death's pale
realm.

To-day we give back to Mother Nature, to her clasp and kiss, one of the
bravest, sweetest souls that ever lived in human clay.

Charitable as the air and generous as Nature, he was negligent of all
except to do and say what he believed he should do and should say.

And I to-day thank him, not only for you but for myself, for all the
brave words he has uttered.  I thank him for all the great and splendid
words he has said in favor of liberty, in favor of man and woman, in
favor of motherhood, in favor of fathers, in favor of children, and I
thank him for the brave words that he has said of death.

He has lived, he has died, and death is less terrible than it was
before.  Thousands and millions will walk down into the "dark valley of
the shadow" holding Walt Whitman by the hand.  Long after we are dead
the brave words he has spoken will sound like trumpets to the dying.

And so I lay this little wreath upon this great man's tomb.  I loved
him living, and I love him still.



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