In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: America to Old-World Bards

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: 1890 or 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00047

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from a digital image of the original manuscript. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of manuscripts, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This manuscript was probably composed in autumn, 1890, as is suggested by the postmarks on the envelopes on which it is written. The poem was revised and published under the title "Old Chants," first in the New York Truth, March 19, 1891. The order of the manuscript leaves has been derived from the published poem. The leaves that comprise this manuscript are five opened-up envelopes and one cancelled letter written to Whitman from J. Harry Schneller, Jr. The verso envelopes and letter are all dated September through October, 1890.

Contributors to digital file: Justin St. Clair, Melissa Sinner, Lisa Renfro, Nick Krauter, Nicole Gray, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, and Brett Barney

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America to Old-World Bards

A reminiscence from reading Walter Scott

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The The [Am?] [qu?] imported ancient ballad reciting, ending

Once, America, gazing I gazing toward thee, ^Mother of all,

Musing, seeking as ever the themes of thee,

Thank ^well for me, thou saidst, before thou goest
the old bards

Speak Name out the word for me acknowledging each
ancient past gone singers.r.

I too receive them with perfect hospitality.

Well-pleased, accepting all, ^curiously prepared for,

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(Of many depbts incalculable

Haply the ^New World's chiefest debts debt
is to past poets ? poems.)

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Unwittingly for thee ^Far back Preluding thee, ^America America,

First Egyp chants, Egyptian priests and those of

The Hindu epics, the Grecian, the Chinese, and the

The Biblic books and prophets, the beauteous
deep idylls of the Nazarene,

The Iliad, Odyssey, ^plots, doings, wanderings of Eneas,

Hesiod Eschylus, Sophocles, Merlin, Arthur,

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These as a mighty great As some great shadowy group, ^gathering around

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Launching, long-darting, Darting m a their mighty
many crowding masterful eyes ^forward at thee

Thee Thou, with ^as now thy ben thy thy bending head [an?]
neck and head
with courteous hand & workd word

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Thee Thou, as pausing for a moment, ^ bending thine drop'st thine eyes
observing on them, ^the past enteresting at
thy entrance-porch.

Preluding thee America

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