In Whitman's Hand

Poetry Manuscripts

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leaf 1 recto

The Sobbing
of the Bells

Midnight Sept 19‑20 1881
The sobbing of the bells,
The sudden death‑news everywhere,
The slumberers rouse,
The rapport of the people,
(Full well they know that
        message in the darkness,
Full well return, respond
        within their breasts, their
        brains, the sad reverberations,)
The passionate toll and clang,
City to city joining, sounding
Those heart‑beats of a Nation
        in the Night.

This poem was composed sometime between September 19, 1881, when President James Garfield died and September 27, 1881, when the poem was initially published.
Editorial note
This manuscript is a draft of "The Sobbing of the Bells," first published in the Boston Daily Globe on September 27, 1881.
This manuscript leaf is held with several other scraps of paper, including a newspaper clipping of the poem, in a large sheet of mylar at the Library of Congress.
The Sobbing of the Bells  |  The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
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