In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: What are inextricable from the British poets

Creators: Walt Whitman, Anonymous

Date: Around 1857

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00169

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the marginalia and annotations, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: Grier estimates that this was written in 1855 or 1856, but the clipping (in two fragments, pasted down) is dated 1857 (Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 5:1777-78).

Contributors to digital file: Lauren Grewe, Nicole Gray, Ty Alyea, and Matt Cohen


Paste-on | Whitman's Notes on Paste-on | Whitman's Highlighting on Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite

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Whereat are inextricable from the British poets are The ideas of royalty and aristocracy, the ideas of the ^radical separation division of those who serve from those who are served, and of the idea a continual recognition of the great leading principles that lie spread at the bases of monarchicaly institutions and the societies and beliefs of the caste. nations.— [Always?] and in In the continents of the eastern hemisphere the a bards have always been whether ancient or modern has been an attaché to a nobleman or a court, or to that order the order of noblemen and courts.— In The skald, the harper, the th troubadour, Shakespeare, the feudal minstrel, the more modern poet, the laureate, all have found written and spoken for them ^write or did write or speak for those selected persons and at their behest, and for the honor and largesse they gave.—Shakespeare wrote composed altogether for the court and for the ^young nobility and the gentry; he had no other audiences.— The courts hasve at all times pensioned eminent poets, and does do so to this day.—..... In all times and in all nations it has been the faith of poets to believe in ^ the noblest thoughts and deeds and to express them and to diffuse the love of beauty.—In this we inherit and partake of every one, without distinction of parties or place. In this is the common glory of poets, irrespective of period or place.—In this the good of any one is the good of all—..... Nor can any Yet is no poet be ^become dear to a people unless he rep[resent?] be of them and of the spirit of them, [in?] a growth of the soil, the water, the climate, the age, the government, the religion, the leading characteristics, the a height and individuality for his own nation and days and f not for other nations— in Egypt and Egyptian, in Greece a Greek, in Germany a German, in England and English[man,?] in the United

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Of the leading British poets many who began with the rights of man, abj[i?]ured their beginnning and came out for kingraft priestcraft, obedience, and so forth.— Southey, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, did so.—

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an ennuyeed poet
Cowper 1731—1800

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COWPER, at the conclusion of his poem, "Yardly Oak," has a rare poetic image, producing an effect in verse which a sculptor might envy for his marble. The poem itself is but a fragment—one of the last great undertakings of the poet, commenced at the age of sixty. It celebrates an old tree, of the date of the Norman conquest, in Yardly Chase, within walking distance of Olney, and we may suppose the poet often to have visited it. Fancy introduces us to the early life of the tree:

"Autumnal rains Beneath thy parent tree mellowed the soil,

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Designed thy cradle; and a skipping deer,

With pointed hoof, dibbling the glebe, prepared

The soft receptacle, in which, secure,

Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through."

The verse becomes knotted with the stubborn strength of the giant oak:

"Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly

Could shake thee to the root—and time has been

When tempests could not. At thy primest age

Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents,

That might have ribb'd the sides and plank'd the deck

Of some flagg'd admiral; and tortuous arms,

The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present

To the four-quarter'd winds, robust and bold,

Warp'd into tough knee-timber, many a load!"

We come to the concluding passage—one of the grandest COWPER ever wrote. We may imagine him spell-bound by the image he had created, despairing of continuing the work. It is a vision of Adam in Paradise:

"One man alone, the father of us all,

Drew not his life from woman; never gazed,

With mute unconsciousness of what he saw,

On all around him; learn'd not by degrees,

Nor owed articulation to his ear;

But, moulded by his Maker into man

At once, upstood intelligent, survey'd

All creatures with precision, understood

Their purport, uses, properties, assign'd

To each his name significant, and, fill'd

With love and wisdom, rendered back to Heaven,

In praise harmonious, the first air he drew.

He was excused the penalties of dull

Minority. No tutor charged his hand

With the thought-tracing quill, or task'd his mind

With problems. History, not wanted yet,

Lean'd on her elbow, watching Time, whose course,

Eventful, should supply her with a theme."


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