In Whitman's Hand

Poetry Manuscripts

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leaf 1 recto

America to Old-World Bards

A reminiscence from reading Walter Scott
leaf 1 verso
leaf 2 recto
The The [Am?] [qu?] imported ancient ballad reciting, ending
Once, America, gazing I gazing toward thee, ^Mother of all,
Musing, seeking as ever the themes of thee,
Thank ^well for me, thou saidst, before thou goest
        the old bards
Speak Name out the word for me acknowledging each
        ancient past gone singers.r.
I too receive them with perfect hospitality.
Well-pleased, accepting all, ^curiously prepared for,
leaf 2 verso
leaf 3 recto
(Of many depbts incalculable
Haply the ^New World's chiefest debts debt
        is to past poets ? poems.)
leaf 3 verso
leaf 4 recto
Unwittingly for thee ^Far back Preluding thee, America ^America,
First Egyp chants, Egyptian priests and those of
The Hindu epics, the Grecian, the Chinese, and the
The Biblic books and prophets, the beauteous
        deep idylls of the Nazarene,
The Iliad, Odyssey, ^plots, doings, wanderings of Eneas,
Hesiod Eschylus, Sophocles, Merlin, Arthur,
leaf 4 verso
leaf 5 recto
These as a mighty great As some great shadowy group, ^gathering around
[paper glued]
Launching, long-darting, Darting m a their mighty
        many crowding masterful eyes ^forward at thee
Thee Thou with ^as now thy ben thy thy bending head [an?]
        neck and head
        with courteous hand &workd word
[paper glued]
Thee Thou, as pausing for a moment, ^bending thine drop'st thine eyes
        observing on them ^the past, enterest ing at
        thy entrance-porch.
Preluding thee America
leaf 5 verso

This manuscript was probably composed in autumn, 1890 as is suggested by the postmarks on the envelopes on which it is written. The order of the manuscript leaves has been derived from the published poem.
Editorial note
This poem was revised and published under the title "Old Chants," first in the New York Truth, March 19, 1891.
The leaves that comprise this manuscript are five opened-up envelopes and one cancelled letter written to Whitman from J. Harry Schneller, Jr. The verso envelopes and letter are all dated September through October, 1890.
America to Old-World Bards  |  The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839-1919, Library of Congress, Washington, DC..
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