In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Old Salt Kossabone

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Late 1887 or early 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00068

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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 was probably composed in late 1887 or early 1888. "Old Salt Kossabone" was first published in the New York Herald on February 25, 1888.

Notes written on manuscript: On leaf 1 verso, in Ellen Terry's hand: "Walt Whitman's Autograph & written lines by him: given me by W. W.—in America in 18[88] —Ellen Terry"

Contributors to digital file: Nick Krauter, Lisa Renfro, Melissa Sinner, Nicole Gray, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, Brett Barney, and Amanda Gailey

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Old Salt Kossabone.

Far back, related on my mother's side,

Old Salt Kossabone, I'll tell you how he died;

(Had been a sailor all his life—was nearly 90—
lived with his married grandchild Jenny,

House on a hill with view of bay at hand, and
distant cape, and stretch to open sea;)

The last of afternoons, the evening hours, for many
a year his regular custom,

In his great ^arm‑chair by the front window seated,
(sometimes indeed through half the day,)

Watching the coming, going of the vessels, he
^mutters to himself—And now the close of all:

One struggling ^out‑bound brig one day baffled for long—
cross-tides and much wrong‑going.

At last at night-fall strikes the breeze aright,
her whole luck veering,

And swiftly out on around ^bending round the cape, the darkness
proudly entering, cleaving, as he watches,

"She's free—she's on her course destination"—these his the last
words—when Jenny came, he sat there dead;

Dutch Kossabone, Old Salt, related on my
mother's side, far back.

                                                                                       Walt Whitman

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