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Walt Whitman's Last

Walt Whitman's Last.

Roberts Brothers, Boston, publish, in very neat form, Walt Whitman's ridiculous rigmarole, by an extreme stretch of critical courtesy called "American Institute Poem."1 If it were only decent prose we might stand it; but it does not rise to the dignity of a dessertation. To show what drivel a man of some poetic talent is capable of palming off on the public, we give the opening lines:

Come, Muse, migrate from Greece and Ionia; Cross out, please, those immensely overpaid accounts, That matter of Troy, and Achilles' wrath, and Eneas',  
 Odysseus' wanderings;
Placard "Removed" and "To Let" on the rocks of your  
 snowy Parnassus;
Repeat at Jerusalem—place the notice high on Jaffa's  
 gate, and on Mount Moriah;
The same on the walls of your Gothic European Ca- 
 thedrals, and German, French and Spanish Castles;
For know a better, fresher, busier sphere—a wide,  
 untried domain awaits, demands you.
Responsive to our summons. Or rather to her long-nurs'd inclination, Join'd with an irresistible, natural gravitation, She comes! this famous Female—as was indeed to be  
(For who, so ever-youthful, 'cute and handsome,  
 would wish to stay in mansions such as those,
When offer'd quarters with all the modern improvements, With all the fun that's going—and all the best society!)

For sale at Roman's, No. 11 Montgomery street.


1. The review misidentifies the title of this work. While the words "Walt Whitman's American Institute Poem" appear on both the volume's cover and one of its two title pages, the words are a secondary title or sub-title; the work's main title, and the one that appears most prominently on the cover, is After All, Not to Create Only. Whitman wrote the poem following a request by the Committee on Invitations of the American Institute to deliver an original poem at the opening of the Institute's 40th Annual Exhibition in New York in 1871. It first appeared concurrently in the New York Commercial Advertiser and the New York Evening Post on September 7, 1871. It was then published as a stand-alone volume by Roberts Brothers in Boston in late 1871. It is this bound volume that is being reviewed here. Whitman would later retitle the poem "Song of the Exposition" and include it in Two Rivulets (1876) and in the 1881-82 edition of Leaves of Grass. [back]

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