In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Aye, well I know 'tis ghastly to descend

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: About 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00107

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 is a rejected linegroup from the poem "Death's Valley," which was published first in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in April, 1892. It was probably composed in 1889, shortly after Whitman received a request from H. M. Alden, editor of Harper's, to write a poem to accompany a painting by George Inness entitled "The Valley of the Shadow of Death."

Contributors to digital file: Nick Krauter, Zane Zimbelman, Nicole Gray, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, and Brett Barney

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Aye, well I know 'tis ghastly to descend
that f valley:

Preachers, musicians, poets, painters, always render it,

Philosophs exploit—the battle‑field, the ship at
sea, the myriad beds, all lands,

All, all the past have enter'd, the ancientest
humanity we know,

Syria's, India's, Egypt's, Greece's, Rome's;

Till now for us under our very eyes spreading
the same to‑day,

Grim, ready ^ for our eyes, for entrance, yours and mine, ^ our eyes,

Here, here 'tis limned.


Yet, [cut away]

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