In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Bloom

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: 1856 or earlier

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00294

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 leaf consists of two manuscript scraps glued together. The bottom scrap includes notes toward "Song of the Broad-Axe," which was first published in the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass as "Broad-Axe Poem." This suggests a date before 1856. The writing on the top scrap, which describes one of Whitman's acquaintances, might have informed the description of the masculine "saunterer of woods" in that poem. Edward Grier writes of "Bloom" that "It has been suggested that this is Nathaniel Bloom, a member of [Whitman]'s circle of friends in the early 1860s...but it seems more likely that the name refers to either 'Gilbert Bloom, carman,' or 'Gilbert J. Bloom, carman,' as listed in the [New York City] directories for 1854–1855" (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:201).

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

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Bloom.—Broad-shouldered, six-footer, with a hare-lip.—Clever fellow, and by no means bad looking.—(George Fitch has room[cut away] with him a year, and tells me, there is no more honorable man breathing.)—Direct, plain-spoken, natural-hearted, gentle-tempered, but awful when roused—cartman, with a horse, cart &c, of his own—drives for a store in mMaiden lane.—

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—The Broad-axe—the axe of the headsman

First as the axe of the headsman—and what was done with it for a thousand years—then as the carpenter's broad-axe, and what is done with that now

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