In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: The Unexpress'd

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: About 1889 or 1890

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00012

Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript 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: "The Unexpress'd" was published first in Lippincott's Magazine in March 1891. This manuscript was likely written in 1889 or 1890. Whitman's note at the top of the page says he sent the poem to Henry M. Alden (editor of Harper's Magazine) in October of 1890. He may have begun composing the poem more than a year before as is suggested by a different draft of this poem (in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection at the Library of Congress) written on the back of a letter dated September 25, 1889.

Contributors to digital file: Nicole Gray, Nick Krauter, Lisa Renfro, Stephen Boykewich, Andrew Jewell, Kenneth Price, and Brett Barney

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sent to Alden Oct 18 '90 100 ask'd

rejected all return'd

The Unexpress'd.

How dare one say it?

After the cycles, poems, singers, plays,

Vaunted Ionia's, India's—Homer, Shakspere—
all old times' thick‑dotted roads, areas,

The ^shining clusters and the Milky Ways of stars—
rhythm's, Nature's pulses ^all reap'd,

All retrospective passions, heros, war, love,

All ages' plummets dropt to the utmost

All human lives, throats, ^wishes, brains, hopes—all
experiences risen to arrived at utterance,

All After the good songs, or long or short, all tongues, all lands,

But ^Then something yet unsung—not yet put in
^poesy's voice or print—something lacking,

(May-be the best yet unexpress'd and lacking.)

Walt Whitman

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