Selected Criticism

"'Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete, The'" (1891)
Altman, Matthew C.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

A seven-line free-verse poem, "'The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete'" (1891) first appeared in the annex "Good-Bye my Fancy." An earlier draft and the printer's copy are in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection at the Library of Congress. Comparing the draft with the published version reveals a number of Whitman's revisions, which include the deletion of several lines before the poem was published.

In a bracketed prefatory note, Whitman explains that he is responding to a sermon he had heard in which a professor-pastor purported to list "the rounded catalogue divine complete." Whitman complains, however, that this catalogue only included "the esthetic things." Whitman's poem appropriates the preacher's phrase and lists what was neglected, the "low and evil, crude and savage."

The theme of "'Rounded Catalogue'" is highly characteristic of Whitman's oeuvre. Whitman's democratic insistence on all-inclusiveness pervades the majority of his poems: he praises both heterosexual and homosexual love in the "Children of Adam" (1860) and the "Calamus" (1860) poems, and the narrator of "Song of Myself" (1855) empathizes with blacks and whites, women and men, young and old, virtue and vice. In "'Rounded Catalogue'" Whitman continues to unite apparent opposites. Whitman's verse complements the preacher's sermon, so that they together comprise an ontological democracy in which heaven is united with earth and sermon is reconciled with poetry. In "'Rounded Catalogue'" Whitman reasserts his belief that a balanced harmony between apparent opposites is necessary in order to complete the divine.


Golden, Arthur. "Whitman's 'Respondez!,' 'A Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete,' and Emerson." Études Anglaises 48 (1995): 319–327.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Ed. Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1973.


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