Leaves Of Grass: (1855) (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Walt WhitmanLeaves Of Grass: (1855) (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Walt Whitman

Leaves Of Grass: (1855) (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

byWalt WhitmanIntroduction byHarold Bloom

Paperback | June 28, 2005

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A deluxe edition of Whitman's crowning achievement, with an introductory essay by Harold Bloom

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

When Walt Whitman self-published his Leaves of Grass in July 1855, he altered the course of literary history. One of the greatest masterpieces of American literature, it redefined the rules of poetry while describing the soul of the American character. Throughout his great career, Whitman continuously revised, expanded, and republished Leaves of Grass, but as Harold Bloom reminds us, the book that matters most is the 1855 original. In celebration of the poem’s 150th anniversary, Penguin Classics proudly presents the 1855 text in its original and complete form, with a specially commissioned introductory essay by Harold Bloom. 

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was born on Long Island and educated in Brooklyn, New York. He served as a printer's devil, journeyman compositor, itinerant schoolteacher, editor, and unofficial nurse to Northern and Southern soldiers.Harold Bloom is the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University and a former Charles Eliot Norton Pr...
Title:Leaves Of Grass: (1855) (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)Format:PaperbackProduct dimensions:208 pages, 8.34 × 5.59 × 0.54 inShipping dimensions:8.34 × 5.59 × 0.54 inPublished:June 28, 2005Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014303927X

ISBN - 13:9780143039273


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read for text before redaction Read this to get the frothy American, pleasantly queer and democratic Whitman, before the market had him polishing off the lively bran for the processed gentry.
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic great book - really enjoyed this
Date published: 2017-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic great book - really enjoyed this
Date published: 2017-12-17

Read from the Book

INSCRIPTIONSOne's-Self I SingOne'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 SilenceAs 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 SeaIn cabin'd ships at sea,The boundless blue on every side expanding,With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine,Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under many a star at night,By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,In full rapport at last.Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts,Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said,The sky o'erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,And this is ocean's poem.Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,You not a reminiscence of the land alone,You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not whither, yet ever full of faith,Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it here in every leaf;)Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the imperious waves,Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every sea,This song for mariners and all their ships.To Foreign LandsI heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World,And to define America, her athletic Democracy,Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.To a HistorianYou who celebrate bygones,Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests,I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights,Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself, (the great pride of man in himself,)Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,I project the history of the future.To Thee Old CauseTo thee old cause!Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,After a strange sad war, great war for thee,(I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be really fought, for thee,)These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee.(A war O soldiers not for itself alone,Far, far more stood silently waiting behind, now to advance in this book.)Thou orb of many orbs!Thou seething principle! thou well-kept, latent germ! thou centre!Around the idea of thee the war revolving,With all its angry and vehement play of causes,(With vast results to come for thrice a thousand years,)These recitatives for thee,--my book and the war are one,Merged in its spirit I and mine, as the contest hinged on thee,As a wheel on its axis turns, this book unwitting to itself,Around the idea of thee.EidolonsI met a seer,Passing the hues and objects of the world,The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,To glean eidolons.Put in thy chants said he,No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,That of eidolons.Ever the dim beginning,Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)Eidolons! eidolons!Ever the mutable,Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,Issuing eidolons.Lo, I or you,Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,But really build eidolons.The ostent evanescent,The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long,Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,To fashion his eidolon.Of every human life,(The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)The whole or large or small summ'd, added up,In its eidolon.The old, old urge,Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,From science and the modern still impell'd,The old, old urge, eidolons.The present now and here,America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,To-day's eidolons.These with the past,Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages,Joining eidolons.Densities, growth, facades,Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,Eidolons everlasting.Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,The visible but their womb of birth,Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,The mighty earth-eidolon.All space, all time,(The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)Fill'd with eidolons only.The noiseless myriads,The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,The true realities, eidolons.Not this the world,Nor these the universes, they the universes,Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,Eidolons, eidolons.Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor,Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,The entities of entities, eidolons.Unfix'd yet fix'd,Ever shall be, ever have been and are,Sweeping the present to the infinite future,Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.The prophet and the bard,Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,God and eidolons.And thee my soul,Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,Thy mates, eidolons.Thy body permanent,The body lurking there within thy body,The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,An image, an eidolon.Thy very songs not in thy songs,No special strains to sing, none for itself,But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,A round full-orb'd eidolon.For Him I SingFor him I sing,I raise the present on the past,(As some perennial tree out of its roots, the present on the past,)With time and space I him dilate and fuse the immortal laws,To make himself by them the law unto himself.When I Read the BookWhen I read the book, the biography famous,And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life?And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?(As if any man really knew aught of my life,Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real life,Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirectionsI seek for my own use to trace out here.)Beginning My StudiesBeginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.BeginnersHow they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,How they inure to themselves as much as to any--what a paradox appears their age,How people respond to them, yet know them not,How there is something relentless in their fate all times,How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same great purchase.To The StatesTo the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little,Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty.On Journeys through the StatesOn journeys through the States we start,(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.We have watch'd the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the seasons, and effuse as much?We dwell a while in every city and town,We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the Mississippi, and the Southern States,We confer on equal terms with each of the States,We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women tohear,We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the body and the soul,Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic,And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return,And may be just as much as the seasons.To a Certain CantatriceHere, take this gift,I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the progress and freedom of the race,Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.Me ImperturbeMe imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature,Master of all or mistress of all, aplomb in the midst of irrational things,Imbued as they, passive, receptive, silent as they,Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less important than I thought,Me toward the Mexican sea, or in the Mannahatta or the Tennessee, or far north or inland,A river man, or a man of the woods or of any farm-life of these States or of the coast, or the lakes or Kanada,Me wherever my life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies,To confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.SavantismThither as I look I see each result and glory retracing itself and nestling close, always obligated,Thither hours, months, years--thither trades, compacts, establishments, even the most minute,Thither every-day life, speech, utensils, politics, persons, estates;Thither we also, I with my leaves and songs, trustful, admirant,As a father to his father going takes his children along with him.The Ship StartingLo, the unbounded sea,On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails,The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately--below emulous waves press forward,They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.I Hear America SingingI hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.What Place Is Besieged?What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal,And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.Still Though the One I SingStill though the one I sing,(One, yet of contradictions made,) I dedicate to Nationality,I leave in him revolt, (O latent right of insurrection! O quenchless, indispensable fire!)Shut Not Your DoorsShut not your doors to me proud libraries,For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet needed most, I bring,Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect,But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.Poets to ComePoets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,Arouse! for you must justify me.I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,Leaving it to you to prove and define it,Expecting the main things from you.To YouStranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me?

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONWalt Whitman first published his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, in 1855, and he continued to rework and expand it until his death in 1892. Since then, editors and scholars have labored over the original texts, producing numerous editions of the collection according to a variety of interpretations. Both Whitman and the editors who followed sought to bring order to the huge array of poems that Whitman added to Leaves of Grass in subsequent editions.In the original volume of twelve untitled works, Whitman’s text sprawls across the pages, which appear to barely contain the long lines of cascading words and phrases. A calculated spontaneity characterizes the first edition, which lacks the titles and section numbers that appear in later editions. This absence of signposts seems appropriate for the predominant themes of Whitman’s poetry. The speaker directly addresses the reader with sweeping pronouncements and challenges. Images accumulate for pages at a time, suggesting a desire to encompass the entire range of human experience. The focus changes abruptly, as if something momentous has suddenly occurred to the speaker that he must communicate immediately.Near the end of the first and longest of the book’s poems, later named “Song of Myself,” the speaker seems to refer to both the poem and himself when he says, “I too am not a bit tamed . . . . I too am untranslatable, / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” (ll. 1322–1323). If he himself is “untranslatable,” what are we to make of “Song of Myself” and the other poems in Leaves of Grass, which can be viewed as a kind of translation of the poet’s direct experience into language that he presumably expects the reader to understand? Furthermore, in referring to himself as “untamed” and to his poem as “a barbaric yawp,” we might ask why the speaker seems to confirm what many readers may have felt—that the poem is a wild and somewhat incoherent exclamation. One of the great challenges of reading “Song of Myself” and the other poems in the first edition of Leaves of Grass is to try to determine whether the book possesses an overall shape. Do the recurrent themes and images, as well as the separate sections of the works, move forward with a discernible purpose?Just after “Song of Myself” begins, the speaker asks the reader a short series of questions that challenge some common assumptions about language and literature: “Have you practiced so long to learn to read? / Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?” (ll. 23–24). There is a mocking quality to the speaker’s use of the words “practiced” and “proud,” as if he intends to offer something direct and unmediated to the reader. The next lines articulate this promise: “Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, / You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left, / You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books, / You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself” (ll. 25–29). Does the speaker suggest here that “Song of Myself” will perform some function that transcends the communication of meaning through words? Yet the poet himself uses words to communicate his vision to us. As we read through “Song of Myself,” with its sermonlike exhortations to see the world in a new, all-embracing way, we must ask the poet to identify the source of his authority and ask why he thinks that verbal communication can make his vision our own.One of the most compelling aspects of “Song of Myself” is the poet’s comprehensive and even oceanic sense of the “self.” He repeatedly collapses the dualities through which we ordinarily see the world—high and low, good and evil, male and female, I and you. Further, he seems to say that both he and all people are identified in some way with each other and with all things. And yet, for all the abstractness of such an idea, the poem teems with specific descriptions of all sorts of people pursuing their various purposes, both ordinary and exceptional, across the moral spectrum. Like the growing, vibrant country in which Whitman lived, the world of his poetry is populated with individuals from all walks of life. At the same time, the speaker in “Song of Myself” subsumes these individuals to some greater idea in which individuality is dissolved.One of the central questions that “Song of Myself” implicitly asks us to consider is how individuality can be celebrated and valued while, at the same time, a more fundamental resolution of apparent differences can inform one’s vision of the world. This question is one of the central dilemmas of a democratic republic such as the United States, and Whitman’s poetry can be viewed as profoundly political, a perspective that he himself emphasizes in his preface to the first edition. In the first lines of the preface, he speaks of America as the place where the past is assimilated into “the new life of the new forms” (p. 5). In the end, Whitman leaves us with the question he folds into perhaps the most quoted lines of “Song of Myself”: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then . . . . I contradict myself; / I am large . . . . I contain multitudes” (ll. 1314–1316). How can the contradictions in an individual or a nation be accommodated and lead to wholeness rather than divisiveness? This question reverberates throughout Leaves of Grass and throughout much of American history. Does Whitman provide an answer? ABOUT WALT WHITMANWalt Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, New York, in 1819. In the early 1820s, his family moved to Brooklyn, and Whitman frequently took the ferry across the East River to visit Manhattan. When his formal education ended at the age of eleven, Whitman forged his own self-directed education by reading widely and immersing himself in the vibrant life and cultural riches of New York City. Whitman also visited his grandparents in rural Long Island often and developed an enduring love for the natural world, especially the shoreline landscape.Whitman’s first occupation, at the age of twelve, was in the printing trade, and, throughout his life, Whitman insisted on being deeply involved in the design and layout of his books. From printing, he made an easy transition to journalism. After a fire in New York City’s printing district decimated the industry, Whitman retreated in 1836 to his family’s home on Long Island and worked as a schoolteacher. He returned to New York City in 1841, intent on making a career of writing.Little is known about Whitman’s development as a poet prior to 1855, when he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Some biographers attribute his leap forward to a transforming personal experience about which we have no report or information. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the book’s few readers, heralded the arrival of Whitman as a remarkable, truly American poet.Between 1855 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Whitman adopted what would become a lifelong pattern of writing and revision. In each subsequent edition of Leaves of Grass, he added new poems, retitled others, and grouped poems in clusters with suggestive headings. During these years, he immersed himself in New York City’s bohemian artistic and literary world. His experiences during this time are reflected in the groups of poems titled “Children of Adam,” celebrating heterosexual love, and “Calamus,” celebrating homosexual love. The latter group made Whitman a precursor of American gay literature.Whitman traveled to Virginia during the Civil War to tend to his wounded brother, George. He remained in Washington, D.C., to help the wounded and dying, supporting himself with a series of bureaucratic jobs. His experiences led to a series of poems reflecting on the war and on the death of President Abraham Lincoln; Whitman later incorporated these poems, which included one of his greatest, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” into the larger scheme of Leaves of Grass. As he continued to revise Leaves of Grass, Whitman published several other works of poetry and prose, including Democratic Vistas (1871) and “Passage to India” (1871). From 1884 until his death in 1892, Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, in the only house he ever owned. He spent his final decade putting together authoritative versions of his sprawling writings, including a so-called deathbed edition of Leaves of Grass (1891). DISCUSSION QUESTIONSPrefaceWhat does Whitman mean when he says, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem” (p. 5)? Why does Whitman think that the United States, of all nations, has the most need of poets (p. 9)? What does Whitman mean when he says, “A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning” (p. 24)? Is the “great poet” that Whitman speaks of throughout his introduction a uniquely American figure, or someone who might exist in any time or place?"Song of Myself"What is the “self” that the speaker celebrates? Is it the same as his individual personality (l. 1)? What is “the origin of all poems” that the speaker promises his readers shall possess? Does he mean that this origin shall be possessed through simply reading his poem (l. 25)? What is the meaning of the extended episode of the bathers? Who is the twenty-ninth bather (ll. 193–210)? Discuss each of the Birdswell siblings. How do they grow throughout the novel? Do you think their relationships with one another improve? What factors contribute to this? How does life pull them apart and bring them together? When the speaker says, “Evil propels me, and reform of evil propels me . . . . I stand indifferent,” is he refusing to take any moral stance (l. 470)? What does the speaker mean when he says, “Writing and talk do not prove me” (l. 581)? Given that much of “Song of Myself” is written in the tone of a lecture or a sermon, what does the speaker mean when he says, “Logic and sermons never convince” (l. 652)? When the speaker says, “My words are words of a questioning, and to indicate reality,” to whose questioning does he refer? What relationship is suggested between the questioning and the indication of reality (l. 1082)? How does the speaker think that his admitted self-contradiction is balanced by his claim that “I contain multitudes”? What are these multitudes, and how are they contained (l. 1315–1316)? Why does the speaker characterize “Song of Myself” as a “barbaric yawp” (l. 1323)?"Other Poems"In “The Sleepers,” why do the sleepers behave in uncharacteristic ways (l. 179–194)? In “I Sing the Body Electric,” why does Whitman say that contact with human bodies “pleases the soul well” (l. 44)? In “There Was a Child Went Forth,” from what does the child go forth? Is the going forth ever completed?For Further ReflectionCan poetry facilitate the accomplishment of political ends? Can the encompassing vision that a poet such as Whitman exhorts his readers to share come through the words of the poem alone, or can the poetry only prepare readers for their own experience of a similar vision? Has the passage of time affected the accuracy of Whitman’s analysis, as suggested in his preface, of the fundamental nature and needs of the United States? 

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