Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado" (1865–1866)
Author:
Gilbert, Sheree L.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

"As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado" first appeared in Whitman's separately published Sequel to Drum-Taps (1865–1866). Sequel was printed in Washington and was first bound with Leaves of Grass in 1867. "As I Lay" was moved elsewhere in the 1871 and 1876 editions and returned to "Drum-Taps" in 1881. The 1881 version excludes a parenthetical passage which followed line 4.

Placed in the concluding pages of "Drum-Taps," "As I Lay" urges the camerado onward, down an unknown road. The war is over, but the fight continues. The resolution is only temporary as "words are [now] weapons" and restlessness a contagion. The struggle for union and a true democracy will continue.

While critics agree that "As I Lay" belongs in "Drum-Taps" as a Civil War poem, some also read it as a restatement of Whitman's "Calamus" themes. The speaker's marginal status, "all have denied me," and his rebellion against "all the settled laws" are characteristic of this earlier cluster. The hope that "we shall be victorious" in the last three lines suggests the possibility of survival and acceptance both for the union of the lovers and the union of the nation. One becomes a metonymy for the other.

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Askin, Denise T. "Retrievements Out of the Night: Prophetic and Private Voices in Whitman's Drum-Taps." American Transcendental Quarterly 51 (1981): 211–223.

Cady, Joseph. "Drum-Taps and Nineteenth-Century Male Homosexual Literature." Walt Whitman: Here and Now. Ed. Joann P. Krieg. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985. 49–60.

Davis, Robert Leigh. "Whitman's Tympanum: A Reading of Drum-Taps." American Transcendental Quarterly 6.3 (1992): 163–175.

Whitman, Walt. Walt Whitman's "Drum-Taps" (1865) and "Sequel to Drum-Taps" (185–6): A Facsimile Reproduction. Ed. F. DeWolfe Miller. Gainesville, Fla.: Schoalrs' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1959.


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