In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The Sobbing of the Bells

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: September 1881

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00022

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from The Walt Whitman Archive I: Whitman Manuscripts at the Library of Congress, ed. Joel Myerson (New York: Garland, 1993), 2:520; Major American Authors on Cd-Rom: Walt Whitman (Westport, CT: Primary Source Media, 1997). The transcription was then checked against 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 is a draft of "The Sobbing of the Bells," first published in the Boston Daily Globe on September 27, 1881. The poem was composed sometime between September 19, 1881, when President James Garfield died, and the publication date. This manuscript leaf is held with several other scraps of paper, including a newspaper clipping of the poem, in a large sheet of mylar at the Library of Congress.

Contributors to digital file: Nicole Gray, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, Brett Barney, Nick Krauter, Jean Dickinson, and Justin St. Clair

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The Sobbing
of the Bells

Midnight Sept 19‑20 1881

The sobbing of the bells,

The sudden death‑news everywhere,

The slumberers rouse,

The rapport of the people,

(Full well they know that
message in the darkness,

Full well return, respond
within their breasts, their
brains, the sad reverberations,)

The passionate toll and clang,

City to city joining, sounding

Those heart‑beats of a Nation
in the Night.

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