In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Sailing Down the Mississippi at Midnight

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: February 1848

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00106

Source: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. 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 is a partial draft of the poem published as "The Mississippi at Midnight" on March 6, 1848, in the New Orleans Daily Crescent. A revised version of the poem, titled "Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight," was later included in Specimen Days & Collect (1882–3). Whitman left for New Orleans in February, 1848, so this manuscript was almost certainly written in that month.

Related item: Draft lines on the back of this manuscript leaf also probably relate to the poem eventually titled "Sailing the Mississippi at Midnight." See nyp.00106.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Nicole Gray, and Chris Forster

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Sailing down the Mississippi, of a Clo[cut away] at

Vast black folds of a pall from skyward Vast and black starless, the pall of heaven

Laps on the trailing pall below

And plunging athwart the solemn ^onward, onward, amid ^in solemn darknes[s?]

As if to the Sea of the Lost we go.—


Now drawn nigher the ^ river's rim edge of the river of the river

Wierd like creatures suddenly rise

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