Walt Whitman- on his birthday (31st May)
Today is a great day. Today is birthday of the great poet and thinker Walt Whitman. He was born on 31st May 1819 in Long Island(Click here to read his biography). He self published his collection of 12 poems titled Leaves of Grass in 1955 and sent them to Ralph Waldo Emerson to read. His poems astonished Emerson and he wrote a letter of appreciation to Walt Whitman which he published in his second edition of Leaves of Grass containing 33 poems along with a response to the letter of Emerson.
Emerson took to freelance journalism with the outbreak of the American Civil War and later moved to Washington DC where he worked as a clerk in the Department of Interior. When the Interior Secretary found that Walt Whitman is the author of "Leaves of Grass" then he fired him.
Walt Whitman struggled his whole life to support himself along with his widowed mother and an invalid brother. He suffered a stroke and died on March 26 1892 and was buried in a self designed and built tomb in Camden.
My favourite poems of Walt Whitman are-
There was a child went forth everyday
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of
the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there--and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads--all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms, and the fruit afterward,
and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass'd on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass'd--and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls--and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.
His own parents,
He that had father'd him, and she that had conceiv'd him in her womb, and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day--they became part of him.
The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words--clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor
falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger'd, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture--the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay'd--the sense of what is real--the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time--the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets--if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves--the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset--the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide--the little boat slack-tow'd astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away
solitary by itself--the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.
O captain, my captain
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true Soul and Body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs--out of commerce, shops, law,
science, work, forms, clothes, the house, medicine, print,
buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem;
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.
O I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way straight to you long ago;
I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing
I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you;
None have understood you, but I understand you;
None have done justice to you--you have not done justice to yourself;
None but have found you imperfect--I only find no imperfection in
None but would subordinate you--I only am he who will never consent
to subordinate you;
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God,
beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.
Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color'd
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams,
effulgently flowing forever.
I hear America singing
I 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 the 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 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.
You can read more poems of Walt Whitman clicking here
You may download the free e-book by clicking here
"Poems by Walt Whitman" is freely available. Please Click here.