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"Unseen Buds" (1891)

"Unseen Buds" first appeared in 1891 in the second annex of Leaves of Grass, "Good-Bye my Fancy." Gay Wilson Allen points out that this poem is an elaboration of the concept of "evolving plenitude" expressed earlier in the 1860 poem eventually entitled "Germs." Both of these poems constitute simply one more expression of an idea ubiquitous in Whitman's poetry, his belief in an "inner force or principle which propels the universe through its cosmic development" (Allen 288). Roger Asselineau reads the poem as an expression of the evolution of the poet's work—a certain theme would exist as a germ in an earlier edition and would then develop organically through later editions.

However, when read along with "The Unexpress'd," "Grand is the Seen," and "Good-Bye my Fancy!," all published in 1891, the poem seems to express the poet's regret that, in his seventies, he has the urge but lacks the energy to produce more poetry; a good part of the poet, "infinite, hidden well," has not yet been revealed. In "Grand is the Seen" Whitman declares, "Grand is the seen . . . But grander far the unseen soul of me." Perhaps the unseen buds represent this same unseen soul of the poet.


Allen, Gay Wilson. Walt Whitman Handbook. 1946. New York: Hendricks House, 1962.

Asselineau, Roger. The Evolution of Walt Whitman: The Creation of a Personality. Trans. Richard P. Adams and Roger Asselineau. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1960.

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

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