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Walt Whitman's "November Boughs"

Walt Whitman's "November Boughs."

No one can fail to be affected by the appearance of the latest writings of Walt Whitman, which are published by Mr. David McKay. Like all that he has written, they are not to be criticised, for the writer's literary creed denies and defies criticism. He is himself, and has the faith in his self-hood that every sturdy revolutionist or sincere reformer has. He may be right or he may be wrong, but his standard is his own, and he is brave enough to maintain it. This volume is a collection of bits that Whitman has published in magazines or newspapers. Many are in prose, in fact all may be so called, although some are poetical in their typographical arrangement. In the first twelve pages is an explanation or defence of his "Leaves of Grass." This is in many respects a noble composition, in spite of its frequent disregard of literary and academic conventions. The collection of thoughts called "Sands at Seventy," cannot be called poetical, though the printed lines suggest it. Still there are occasional flashes of poetic light, which gleam through an excess of bigwordiness. But this remark borders on criticism, and that is forbidden when Whitman's contemporaries consider him. He has his own ideas of grammar, phraseology and the meaning of words, English and French, and he is not to be disturbed in his rights. What we especially admire in him is his stout, tough Americanism, his faith in his country, its government, and its people. His "War Memoranda," his reminiscences of his devoted labors in the army hospitals, and his noble tribute to Lincoln (not so tender as the really rhythmic verses "My Captain"), are things for young Americans to study. His literary essays on Burns, Tennyson and Shakespeare stir the sympathies of all lovers of the English language. More elaborate and long than all is the paper on Elias Hicks,1 which is a fervid tribute to one man, and a lesson to many. It is full of ideas and suggestions of ideas, which will work and bear fruit in the minds of the seriously thoughtful.


1. Elias Hicks (1748-1830) headed one of the two factions in the first major schism within the Religious Society of Friends. A liberal Quaker preacher, he advocated abolition among other causes. [back]

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