In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: (Of the great poet)

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: About 1855

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00128

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

Editorial note: This manuscript, likely written in the early to mid-1850s, includes notes that anticipate the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. Imagery and phrases in the second paragraph of the first leaf are reminscent of lines in both the poem eventually titled "Song of Myself" and the poem eventually titled "I Sing the Body Electric." Another line on the first leaf appeared in a slightly different form in "Poem of The Singers, and of The Words of Poems" in the 1856 edition of Leaves (a poem later titled "Song of the Answerer"). The stated desire for "satisfiers" and "lovers" (found here on the bottom of the second leaf) appears in "Poem of Many in One," also first published in the 1856 edition and later titled "By Blue Ontario's Shore." When Richard Maurice Bucke printed a transcription of this manuscript, he added the following words to the end of leaf 2, recto: "These frothing, maddening waves are to be" (Notes and Fragments [London, Ontario: A. Talbot & Co., 1899], 129). The words do not appear on the present manuscript. Edward Grier notes that Floyd Stovall has connected material on the third leaf to Whitman's "reading of H. N. Hudson's 'Thoughts on Reading,' American Whig Review, 1 (May 1845), 483–496, which he clipped and annotated" (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:95).

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Janel Cayer, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, Kenneth M. Price, and Brett Barney

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(Of the great poet) (Finally) For preface.

It is not that he gives his country great poems; it is that he gives his country the spirit which makes the greatest poems [illegible] and the greatest material for poems.—


(He could say)

I know well enough the perpetual myself in my poems—but it is because the universe is in myself,—it shall all pass through me as a procession.—I say nothing of myself, which I do not equally say of all others, men and women

? (or) (Finally) (It is not that he gives you his country)

He does not give you the usual poems and metaphysics.—He gives you the materials for you to form for yourself the poems, and metaphysics, ^politics, behaviour, and histories and romances, and essays and every thing else.[that?] literature ^can embody

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Here is

He is as oOne having attained to those insights and contents which the study of the universe gives to those men capable of comprehending it, is not would publish the same, and persuade all other men and women to the same.—The conditions are simple, spiritual, physical, close at hand. . . .^they are long and arduous and require faith, they depen are [illegible] rest exist altogether with the taught, and not with the teaching or teacher.—


What is wanted is not questionings inquiries and reviews and

We want satisfiers, joiners, compacters, lovers.—Thisese heated, torn, distracted ages are to be compacted and made whole.—

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It is not enough of these states that they are to hold sway over physical objects, over those armies, navies, wealth, population and all manufactures and ^all substantial objects.—They They must be eminent leaders and            of the mind and imagination.—Here must arise the great poets and orators of the that all new centuries continually wait for.—

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