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About this Item

Title: The Dead Tenor

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: November 8, 1885

Publication information: Critic 5 (8 November 1884): 222.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00031

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, Heather Morton, Leslie Ianno, Ramon Guerra, and Susan Belasco




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The Dead Tenor.1

As down the stage again,
With Spanish hat and plumes, and gait inimitable,
Back from the fading lessons of the past, I'd call, I'd tell
and own,
How much from thee! the revelation of the singing voice
from thee!
(So firm—so liquid-soft—again that tremulous, manly
timbre!
The perfect singing voice—deepest of all to me the lesson—
trial and test of all:)
How through those strains distill'd—how the rapt ears, the
soul of me, absorbing
Fernando's heart, Manrico's passionate call, Ernani's, sweet
Gennaro's,
I fold thenceforth, or seek to fold, within my chants trans-
muting,
Freedom's and Love's and Faith's unloos'd cantabile,
(As perfume's, color's, sunlight's correlation:)
From these, for these, with these a hurried line, dead tenor,
A wafted autumn leaf, dropt in the closing grave, the
shovell'd earth,
To memory of thee.
NOVEMBER 4, 1884.
WALT WHITMAN.

Notes:

1. Reprinted in the "Sands at Seventy" annex to Leaves of Grass (1888). [back]


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