Leaves of Grass

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Leaves of Grass

by Walt Whitman

Random House Publishing Group | June 1, 1983 | Mass Market Paperbound |

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One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book.  First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."  Over the course of Whitman''s life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author''s experiences and the nation''s history changed and grew.  Whitman''s ambition was to creates something uniquely American.  In that he succeeded.  His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character.  From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom''d" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman''s work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 528 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.79 in

Published: June 1, 1983

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0553211161

ISBN - 13: 9780553211160

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– More About This Product –

Leaves of Grass

by Walt Whitman

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 528 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.79 in

Published: June 1, 1983

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0553211161

ISBN - 13: 9780553211160

Read from the Book

INSCRIPTIONS One''s-Self I Sing One''s-Self I sing, a simple separate person, Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse. Of physiology from top to toe I sing, Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far, The Female equally with the Male I sing. Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, Cheerful, for freest action form''d under the laws divine, The Modern Man I sing. As I Ponder''d in Silence As I ponder''d in silence, Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long, A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect, Terrible in beauty, age, and power, The genius of poets of old lands, As to me directing like flame its eyes, With finger pointing to many immortal songs, And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said, Know''st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards? And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles, The making of perfect soldiers. Be it so, then I answer''d, I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any, Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance and retreat, victory deferr''d and wavering, (Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the field the world, For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul, Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles, I above all promote brave soldiers. In Cabin''d Ships at Sea In cabin''d ships at sea, The boundless blue on every side expanding, With whistling winds
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Table of Contents

Editor''s Introduction vii
Facsimile Frontispiece 2
Facsimile Title Page 3
Whitman''s Introduction 5
Song of Myself 25
A Song for Occupations 87
To Think of Time 98
The Sleepers 105
I Sing the Body Electric 116
Faces 124
Song of the Answerer 129
Europe: The 72d and 73d Years of These States 133
A Boston Ballad 135
There Was a Child Went Forth 138
Who Learns My Lesson Complete 140
Great Are the Myths 142

From the Publisher

One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book.  First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."  Over the course of Whitman''s life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author''s experiences and the nation''s history changed and grew.  Whitman''s ambition was to creates something uniquely American.  In that he succeeded.  His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character.  From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom''d" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman''s work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.

From the Jacket

One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. "Leaves Of Grass is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Over the course of Whitman''s life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author''s experiences and the nation''s history changed and grew. Whitman''s ambition was to creates something uniquely American. In that he succeeded. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character. From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom''d" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman''s work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.

About the Author

Before the age of thirty-six there was no sign that Walt Whitman would become even a minor literary figure, let alone the major poetic voice of an emerging America. Born in 1819 on Long Island, he was the second son of a carpenter and contractor. His formal schooling ended at age eleven, when he was apprenticed to a printer in Brooklyn. He became a journeyman printer in 1835 and spent the next two decades as a printer, free-lance writer, and editor in New York. In 1855, at his own expense, he published the twelve long poems, without titles, that make up the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The book, with its unprecedented mixture of the mystical and the earthy, was received with puzzlement or silence, except by America''s most distinguished writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman lost no time in preparing a second edition, adding "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and nineteen other new poems in 1856. With the third edition (1860), the book had tripled in size. Whitman would go on adding to it and revising it for the rest of his life. Whitman''s poetry slowly achieved a wide readership in America and in England. He was praised by Swinburne and Tennyson, and visited by Oscar Wilde. He suffered a stroke in 1873 and spent the remainder of his life in Camden, New Jersey. His final edition of Leaves of Grass appeared in 1892, the year of his death.

From Our Editors

One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Here is the definitive collection of his work, from his solemn masterpeice "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself". Reissue

Editorial Reviews

"Whitman''s best poems have that permanent quality of being freshly painted, of not being dulled by the varnish of the years."
--Malcolm Cowley

Bookclub Guide

1. Critic and poet Lewis Turco maintains that, contrary to the otherwise nearly universally accepted view, Whitman is not America's most innovative and important poet. He did nothing new, Turco argues, and "the level of his competence was not very high-he retained his poor ear throughout his life; his poems are too long, too disorganized, too pompous, too repetitious, too boring." Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

2. Although Leaves of Grass might appear to be an amorphous, unstructured mass (as Turco suggests above), Whitman spent nearly forty years carefully revising it, reordering the poems, deleting poems or sections of poems, and adding new poems and cycles. He insisted that there was an overall unity and structure to the book (and stated that the ninth and final edition, the "Death-bed" edition published in 1892, was the last word on it). Do you perceive an overall unity in the book? Is there a discernible structure to it?

3. Walt Whitman is often called the poet of democracy and of America; one of the best-known and most often quoted poems in Leaves of Grass is "For You O Democracy" in "Calamus." How does Leaves of Grass answer the question of what democracy is and what it means to be an American?

4. In The Good Gray Poet, one of the first biographies of Whitman, William Douglas O'Connor explained in words that Whitman himself acknowledged that one of the primary purposes of Leaves of Grass was to save
sexuality "from the keeping of blackguards and debauchees, to which it has been abandoned"-by which he meant rescue it from libertines, whose dissolute behavior made sex disrespectable to middle-class Victorian sensibilities. One American reviewer of the 1855 edition described Whitman as having "a degrading, beastly sensuality, that is fast rotting the core of all the social virtues" and a British reviewer asked, "Is it possible that the most prudish nation on earth will adopt a poet whose indecencies stink in the nostrils?" How is sexuality represented in Leaves of Grass?

5. There are many recurrent themes, symbols, images, and motifs in Leaves of Grass as a whole, as well as in particular poems and cycles of poems. Consider, for example, the following: a) The use of the star, the lilac, and the bird in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (What do they symbolize and how do they relate to each other? How do they contribute to the structure of what many critics consider to be one of the finest poems ever written in the English language?); b) The recurrence of the word "mother" or "mothers" (more than one hundred times) in the book; and c) the repeated invocation of odor, fragrance, and perfume throughout the book.

6. The Civil War was a defining event in Walt Whitman's life, and the poems in "Drum-Taps" are a testimony to the impact the time he spent as a nurse to both Northern and Southern soldiers in the army hospitals of Washington, D.C. had on him. What view of the war is expressed by the narrative persona, and does the perspective of the persona change over the course of the cycle of poems?

7. Discuss the following stylistic aspects of Leaves of Grass: a) lists and catalogues; b) the extensive use of parentheses; c) parallelism (the development of rhythm via a repetition of ideas and sentences rather than through accents and syllables); d) the repetition of sounds and words; and e) punctuation.

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