In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Great are the myths

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1855

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00259

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: Whitman probably drafted this manuscript in the early 1850s as he was composing the first (1855) edition of Leaves of Grass. The opening lines of the manuscript appear in the twelfth poem of that edition, eventually titled "Great are the Myths." The poem went through many revisions through the different editions of Leaves of Grass, then was permanently dropped in 1881–1882, except the two couplets that became the poem "Youth, Day, Old Age, and Night."

Related item: On the back of this manuscript is a partial draft of "Memorial in Behalf of a Freer Municipal Government, and Against Sunday Restrictions," printed in the Brooklyn Star on October 20, 1854. See duk.00938.

Contributors to digital file: Brandon James O'Neil and Nicole Gray

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—(of firemen or fireengines,

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Great are the myths . . . . I too delight in them,

Great are Adam and Eve . . . . I too look back and accept them,

Great between them and me the risen and fallen
nations, and their poets, women, sages,
rulers, warriors and priests.—

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And that's so, easy enough;

And I am no shallowpate to go gadding about
singing them ^above the rest, and deferring to them;

And they did not become great by singing and deferring.



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Great are you . . . . and great am I,

We are just as good and bad as the oldest or youngest or nearest any,

What the best and the worst did we can do,

What they felt—do we not feel it in ourselves?

What they thought—do we not think the same?

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