Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"Sometimes with One I Love"(1860)
Author:
Chandran, K. Narayana
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Originally number 39 in the "Calamus" cluster, "Sometimes with One I Love," a four-line poem, first appeared in Leaves of Grass in 1860. It advances Whitman's view that for all the ups and downs of friendship or love, there can be no "unreturn'd love." The reward is certain "one way or another" because even the rage of unrequited love produces "these songs." The poem reworks a universal poetic theme: art is born of anguish; the sorer the lover feels the better for his/her art.

Few readers of this poem seem to have missed the revision its third line has undergone. The 1860 text had for its third line: "Doubtless I could not have perceived the universe, or written one of my poems, if I had not freely given myself to comrades, to love." Whitman deletes this line in 1867 and replaces it with "(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not retur'd, / Yet out of that I have written these songs.)" Often enough, this has invited some biographical speculations. Edwin Haviland Miller, for one, finds the revision rather pointless because he feels that for all the poet's supposed intimacy with Peter Doyle in 1867, love is more brotherly and universal in "Calamus"as a whole.

Bibliography

Helms, Alan. "'Hints . . . Faint Clews and Indirections': Whitman's Homosexual Disguises." Walt Whitman: Here and Now. Ed. Joann P. Krieg. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985. 61–67.

Miller, Edwin Haviland. Walt Whitman's Poetry: A Psychological Journey. New York: New York UP, 1969.

Miller, James E., Jr. "'Calamus': The Leaf and the Root." A Century of Whitman Criticism. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 303–320.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader's Edition. Ed. Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley. New York: New York UP, 1965.


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