Walt Whitman Poems

Poems » walt whitman

Walt Whitman
Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and Realism, incorporating both views in his works. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Whitman is among the most influential and controversial poets in the American canon. His work has been described as a "rude shock" and "the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature." As Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass (By Blue Ontario's Shore), "Rhymes and rhymers pass away...America justifies itself, give it time..." Walter Whitman was born May 31, 1819 in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island, to parents of Quaker background, Walter and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. He was the second of nine children. One of his siblings, born prior to him, did not make it past infancy. His mother was barely literate and of Dutch descent and his father was a Quaker carpenter. In 1823 the family moved to Brooklyn, where for six years Whitman attended public schools. It was the only formal education he ever received. His mother taught him the value of family ties, and Whitman remained devoted to his family throughout his life, becoming, in a real sense, its leader after the death of his father. Whitman inherited the liberal intellectual and political attitudes of a free thinker from his father, who exposed him to the ideas and writings of the socialists Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen, the liberal Quaker Elias Hicks, and the deist Count Volney. One advantage of living in Brooklyn was that Whitman saw many of the famous people of the day when they visited nearby New York City. Thus he saw President Andrew Jackson and Marquis de Lafayette. In what was one of Whitman's favorite childhood stories Marquis de Lafayette visited Brooklyn and, selecting the six-year-old Walt from the crowd, lifted him up and carried him. Whitman came to view this event as a kind of laying on of hands: the French hero of the American Revolution anointing the future poet of democracy in the energetic city of immigrants where the nation was being invented day by day. At age eleven he worked as an office boy for lawyers and a doctor, then in the summer of 1831 became a printer's devil for the Long Island Patriot, a four-page weekly whose editor, Samuel L. Clements (not to be confused with Samuel L. Clemens/Mark Twain), shared the liberal political views of his father. It was here that Whitman first broke into print with "sentimental" bits of filler material. The following summer Whitman went to work for another printer, Erastus Worthington, and in the autumn he moved on to the shop of Alden Spooner, the most successful publisher-printer in Brooklyn. Although his family moved back to the area of West Hills in 1834, where another son, Thomas Jefferson, was born in July, Whitman stayed on in Brooklyn. He published a few pieces in the New York Mirror, attended the Bowery Theater, continued subscribing to a circulating library, and joined a local debating society. In his sixteenth year, Whitman moved to New York City to seek work as a compositor. However, a wave of Irish immigrants had contributed to the already unruly behavior in New York City's streets; anti-abolitionist and anti-Irish riots often broke out, unemployment was high, and the winter was miserably cold. Whitman could not find satisfactory employment and, in May 1836, he rejoined his family, now living in Hempstead, Long Island. Whitman taught at various schools until the spring of 1838, when, with the financial support of friends, he began his own newspaper, the weekly Long Islander, in Huntington.

the worship of nature
 
 
The harp at Nature's advent strung
Has never ceased to play;
The song the stars of mor... [read poem]
my triumph
 
 
The autumn-time has come;
On woods that dream of bloom,
And over purpling vines,
The ... [read poem]
ichabod
 
 
So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn
Which once he wore!
The glory from his gray ha... [read poem]
snow-bound: a winter idyl
 
 
To the Memory of the Household It Describes
This Poem is Dedicated by the Author

... [read poem]
barbara frietchie
 
 
Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered... [read poem]
the barefoot boy
 
 
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantalo... [read poem]
in school-days
 
 
Still sits the school-house by the road,
A ragged beggar sleeping;
Around it still the s... [read poem]
love bade me welcome
 
 
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, ... [read poem]
what the birds said
 
 
The birds against the April wind
Flew northward, singing as they flew;
They sang, "The l... [read poem]
skipper ireson's ride
 
 
Of all the rides since the birth of time,
Told in story or sung in rhyme, --
On Apuleius's... [read poem]
burning drift-wood
 
 
Before my drift-wood fire I sit,
And see, with every waif I burn,
Old dreams and fancies... [read poem]
i sit and look out
 
 
I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;... [read poem]
telling the bees
 
 
Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the ... [read poem]
beat! beat! drums!
 
 
Beat! beat! drums! -- blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows -- through doors -- burst like a ... [read poem]
easter wings
 
 
Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
... [read poem]
Continue in John Greenleaf Whittier »»»

Page 1 of 1