In Whitman's Hand


About this Item

Title: Silence

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Between 1850 and 1865

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00441

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: This document consists of two manuscript scraps pasted together to make one leaf. Based on the handwriting, Edward Grier dates the top scrap to the 1860s and the bottom scrap to the 1850s (Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 1:474). The relationship of the first scrap to Whitman's published work is unclear, although Grier notes that "Parsons was a [New York] street preacher who was arrested December 11, 1853 by order of Mayor Jacob Aaron Westervelt (1800–1879) for his incendiary anti-Catholic, anti-foreign speeches. [Whitman], as political journalist, was interested in the resulting 'freedom of speech' controversies. The march referred to took place on December 18" (1:474). Portions of the second scrap are related to "Great Are the Myths," first published, untitled, in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass as the concluding poem, and again in the 1856 edition as "Poem of a Few Greatnesses." These two scraps are largely unrelated: perhaps the only connection between the two is the theme of silence.

Related item: On the back of this manuscript is a cancelled prose note. See yal.00457.

Contributors to digital file: Nicole Gray, Kirsten Clawson, Janel Cayer, Brett Barney, and Kenneth M. Price

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Silence.—^Years ago In the Parsons affair, in New York, after the Mayor Westervelt had been worsted, a vast mass of ten or some ten to fifteen thousand, after hearing P., on Sunday afternoon, took a freak into their heads to adjourn visit in perfect silence the Mayor's house, as a rebuke.—They did so; ^—only the tramping of their feet was heard— a prodigious army drawing up and standing around [there?] his door, and neighborhood, without a word or any insulting gesture or look, for about half an hour, and then dispersed.—

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Silence.—(The tr this to last ¶) original god ^of whom Osiris ^was one type, in his highest capacity of goodness, was adored by the Egyptian priests in silence,—without words, without movements.—)

The greatest love is that which makes no professions

The greatest anguish is the misery that neither weeps nor complains.—

The greatest contempt utters not a ^single word.

To the gainer of one or two signal victories the subtle-souled Greeks made frequently offered the compliment of a colossal statue, put ^on a proportionately gigantic pedestal, in th some public porch.—To the grand veteran of a dozen of the twenty treble or quadruple the of mightiest successes they ^ invariably built a statue strictly of his own size, and placed planted it on a level with the eye.—

After all there is in eloquence and rage,

I guess that there is more still in silence.—

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