Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Addington Symonds to Walt Whitman, 25 February 1872

Date: February 25, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01962

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Beverley Rilett

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
see notes June 27 1888

Clifton Hill House
Feb 25 1872

Dear Mr. Whitman

I received the Washington newspaper with your new poem, for which I hasten to thank you. It is, I think, in your finest style. The conception is most impressive: for this transference to the unseen spiritual influences of the night, of what the poet feels of past splendor, & of Love and Struggle in the present life, & of Faith for the future, strikes somehow a soul-thrilling & elevating chord that tunes the whole poem to the pitch of a Heroic Symphony. Movements v & viii are especially grand. Who indeed but you are the Singer of Love & Faith in their new advent?

I have nothing worthy to send you in return. But yet I must exchange my token for yours—brazen for golden gifts, as the Greek poet said. Therefore I venture to enclose a study of Greek friendship. The misfortune of my poem is that it presupposes much knowledge of antiquity—as for instance that this Aristodemus returning alone from Thermopylae to Sparta was visited there with universal disgrace, that the Spartan youths lived not at home but in bands called "Herds," that the Spartans sacrificed to Love as the inspirer of Heroism before engaging in battle, & that, as a mere matter of recorded history, Callicrates was the most beautiful man among the Spartans & that he died in the ranks at the very opening of the battle of Platea. You to whom all things seem at first sight clear will need no further explanation.

I wrote to you some days since. More now I will not add—except that

I am ever yours
J. A. Symonds.


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.