In Whitman's Hand

Poetry Manuscripts

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[Leaf 1 recto]

Answer me, year of repulses After ^certain disastrous campaigns.

Answer me, traitor! year of
How will the poets, the lecturers
        of ages hence, look back to you,
        & to me also?
What themes will they make ^O year out of
        you, O year? (themes for ironical sarcastic
What are the ballads & proofs to
        be finally made shown of out of you?
Are they not indeed to be shown
        with pride, as by poets bards descended of
        mine own from me? by my children?
Are to be they really of failures? of
         ^are they sterile, incompetent yieldings after all?
Are they not indeed to be as
        victorious shouts from my

According to Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett, the "year of repulses may well have been 1862, the disastrous campaigns being those of Major General George B. McClellan, who was halted by General Robert E. Lee until the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862. Or possibly the year may have been 1863 when Lee and Jackson pushed northward until Lee was halted at Gettysburg, July 1-3" (Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition, ed. Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley. New York: New York University Press, 1965, 666-67n.) . The manuscript was likely composed between 1862-1865, while Whitman was writing his 1865 volume Drum-Taps.
Editorial note
A poem unpublished in Whitman's lifetime, "After Certain Disastrous Campaigns" was published first in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1921).
After certain disastrous campaigns MA 518 (B)  |  The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.
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