“Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman

Walter “Walt” Whitman is one of those prominent American writers who managed to leave a remarkable mark in the history of American literature. His work Leaves of Grass is well-known today by its frankness and valuable content that has undergone many changes throughout a century. Whitman dedicated his entire life to Leaves of Grass poetry collection rewriting, giving new titles to the poems, re-releasing the book several times. He added a slight difference to the poems’ content in every new edition. As such, this paper will elaborate on the first poem from Leaves of Grass that became famous right after the book had been first released. The poem had no name, just as all of the twelve pieces in the first edition. However, the year 1856 and 1860 had the masterpiece named Poem of Walt Whitman, an American and Walt Whitman accordingly (The poem was named Song of Myself in 1881). Therefore it is essential to trace the differences the author introduced in the three releases of the poem in 1855, 1856, 1860.

The poem itself is very significant for contemporary people to understand the way the nineteenth century poet used to think, of course, due to the Transcendentalist influences. Leaves of Grass contains the three themes that are likely to touch the feelings of the majority of Whitman’s readers since the first edition was so much popularized. The three features are: the idea of oneself, the identification of a person with others within the society, and the poet’s interference with nature and its elements.

Although the content remained practically the same: the author introduced the way he found his individual self and the universal self among the civilization and cosmos, the actual page image has changed significantly since 1855. The author managed to change punctuation radically. Moreover, there were several sections added and some deleted. What bursts upon the eye is the way Whitman divided up the poem in different ways throughout the editions released in different years. Firstly, the poem did not have the lines numbered having a bulk of text vary from one line to eighty lines in a row, whereas the 1860’s release had the stanzas numbered from 1 to 372. Besides, while the poem was the first to introduce the poems collection in 1855, the succeeding edition of 1856 had it come second, and all other editions had the poem moved each time further in sequence. Moreover, Whitman shifted the meaning of the poem recontextualizing and revising it throughout three decades’ time. Furthermore, it would not be until the edition of 1860 that the author allowed his name to appear on the pages of Leaves of Grass.

I really enjoyed the Walt Whitman poem of the 1860 release. It is structuralized clearly and as easy to read as it is only possible to read a collection of nineteenth century poems. Although Whitman seems to be overwhelmingly frank about his sexuality and its connection to the nature and the universe, the poem overall seems very deep and philosophical. Needles to say, the poet makes it clear how important the issue of finding oneself among nature and civilization was important to Whitman. The poem has been changed throughout the years by the poet; this should make it clear that not only the overall view of the poem was altered; rather the content had new tone and colors. “Whitman believed that American poetry would have to be essentially different from any poetry written previously…” (Folsom, n.p.). The main theme Whitman presented – that still remains vital and debatable – is that spiritual entity remains permanent unlike the experiences and ideas of a person that contribute to spirituality as well.

Work Cited

Folsom, Ed, and Kenneth M. Price,. The Walt Whitman Archive.

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