Walt Whitman Archive LogoLeaves of Grass (1855) Variorum

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About the Reviews

After the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass was published and the first several copies were circulating, Whitman collected reviews and extracts of responses to the volume as they were published in periodicals. Although they were published anonymously, Whitman himself wrote three of the reviews. He arranged for these to be reprinted along with other articles and extracts about poetry and poets more generally. He then arranged for the eight-page printed insertion to be bound into several of the remaining copies of Leaves of Grass.

A Note on the Text

The images provided as thumbnails before each page correspond to the insertion in a copy in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. For a complete list of copies that include the reviews insertion, see "Reviews and extracts" in the main text or visit the bibliography of copies. For more information about our editorial rationale, see our editorial policy statement and the introduction to the variorum.

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From the North American Review, January, 1844.

Article by E. P. WHIPPLE, reviewing R. W. Griswold's "Poets and Poetry of America."

. . . . . . We can hardly conceive that a reasonable being should look with coolness or dislike upon any efforts to establish a national literature, of which poetry is such an important element. The man whose heart is capable of a patriotic emotion, who feels his pulse quicken when the idea of his country is brought home to him, must desire that country to possess a voice more majestic than the roar of party, and more potent than the whine of sects,—a voice which would breathe energy and awaken hope wherever its kindly tones were heard. The life of our native land—the inner spirit which animates its institutions—the new ideas and principles of which it is the representative—the e every patriot must wish to behold reflected from the broad mirror of a comprehensive and soul-animating literature. The true vitality of a nation is not seen in the triumphs of its industry, the extent of its conquests, or the reach of its empire, but in its intellectual dominion.—Posterity passes over statistical tables of trade and population to search for the records of the mind and heart.—It is of little moment how many millions of men were included at any time under the name of one people, if they have left no intellectual testimonials of their mode and manner of existence, no "footprints on the sands of time." The heart refuses to glow at the most astounding array of figures. A nation lives only through its literature, and its mental life is immortal.

America abounds in the material of poetry. Its history, its scenery, the structure of its social life, the thoughts which pervade its political forms, the meaning which underlies its hot contests, are all capable of being exhibited in a poetical aspect. Carlyle in speaking of the settlement of Plymouth by the Pilgrims, remarks that if we had the open sense of the Greeks, we should have 'found a poem here, one of nature's own poems, such as she writes in broad facts, over great continents.'

If we have a literature, it should be a national literature; no feeble or sonorous echo of Germany or England, but essentially American in its tone and object. No matter how meritorious a composition may be, as long as any foreign nation can say that it has done the same thing better, so long shall we be spoken of with contempt, or in a spirit of impertinent patronage. We begin to sicken of the custom, now so common, of presenting even our best poems to the attention of foreigners with a deprecating apologetic air; as if their acceptance of the offering, with a few soft and silky compliments, would be an act of kindness demanding our warmest acknowledgements.

In order that America may take its due rank in the commonwealth of nations, a literature is needed which shall be the exponent of its higher life. We live in times of turbulence and change. There is a general dissatisfaction, manifesting itself often in rude contests and ruder speech, with the gulf which separates principles from actions. Men are struggling to realize dim ideals of truth and right, and each failure adds to the desperate earnestness of their efforts. Beneath all the shrewdness and selfishness of the American character, there is a smouldering enthusiasm which flames out at the first touch of fire—sometimes at the hot and hasty words of party, and sometimes at the bidding of great thoughts and unselfish principles. The heart of the nation is easily stirred to its depths; but those who rouse its fiery impulses into action are often men compounded of ignorance and wickedness, and wholly unfit to guide the passions which they are able to excite. There is no country in the world which has nobler ideas embodied in more worthless shapes. All our factions, fanaticisms, reforms, parties, creeds, ridiculous or dangerous though they often appear, are founded on some aspiration or reality which deserves a better form and expression. There is a mighty power in great speech. If the sources of what we call our fooleries and faults were rightly addressed, they would echo more majestic and kindly truths. We want a poetry which shall speak in clear loud tones to the people; a poetry which shall make us more in love with our native land by converting its ennobling scenery into the images of lofty thought; which shall give visible form and life to the abstract ideas of our written constitutions: which shall confer upon virtue all the strength of principle, and all the energy of passion; which shall disentangle freedom from cant and senseless hyperbole, and render it a thing of such loveliness and grandeur as to justify all self-sacrifice; which shall make us love man by the new consecrations it sheds on life and destiny; which shall force through the thin partitions of conventionalism and expediency; vindicate the majesty of reason; give new power to the voice of conscience and new vitality to human affection; soften and elevate passion; guide enthusiasm in a right direction; and speak out in the high language of men to a nation of men.


From the Brooklyn Daily Times.

Leaves of Grass, A volume of Poems, just published.

To give judgement on real poems, one needs an account of the poet himself. Very devilish to some, and very divine to some, will appear these new poems, the Leaves of Grass; an attempt, as they are, of a live, naieve, masculine, tenderly affectionate, rowdyish, contemplative, sensual, moral, susceptible and imperious person, to cast into literature not only his own grit and arrogance, but his own flesh and form, undraped, regardless of foreign models, regardless of modesty or law, and ignorant or silently scornful, as at first appears, of all except his own presence and experience, and all outside the fiercely loved land of his birth and the birth of his parents and their parents for several generations before him. Politeness this man has none, and regulation he has none. The effects he produces are no effects of artists or the arts, but effects of the original eye or arm, or the actual atmosphere or brute or bird. You may feel the unconscious teaching of the presence of some fine animal, but will never feel the teaching of the fine writer or speaker.

Other poets celebrate great events, personages, romances, wars, loves, passions, the victories and power of their country, or some real or imagined incident—and polish their work, and come to conclusions, and satisfy the reader. This poet celebrates himself; and that is the way he celebrates all. He comes to no conclusions, and does not satisfy the reader. He certainly leaves him what the serpent left the woman and the man, the taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, never to be erased again.

What good is it to argue about egotism? There can be no two thoughts on Walt Whitman's egotism. That is what he steps out of the crowd and turns and faces them for. Mark, critics! Otherwise is not used for you the key that leads to the use of the other keys to this well-enveloped yet terribly in earnest man. His whole work, his life, manners, friendships, writings, all have among their leading purposes, an evident purpose, as open and avowed as any of the rest, to stamp a new type of character, namely his own, and indelibly fix it and publish it, not for a model but an illustration, for the present and future of American letters and American young men, for the south the same as the north, and for the Pacific and Mississippi country, and Wisconsin and Texas and Kanzas and Canada and Havana, just as much as New-York and Boston. Whatever is needed toward this achievement he puts his hand to, and lets imputations take their time to die.

First be yourself what you would show in your poem—such seems to be this man's example and inferred rebuke to the schools of poets. He makes no allusions to books or writers; their spirits do not seem to have touched him; he has not a word to say for

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or against them, or their theories or ways. He never offers others; what he continually offers is the man whom our Brooklynites know so well.
Of pure American breed, of reckless health, his body perfect, free from taint from top to toe, free forever from headache and dyspepsia, full-blooded, six feet high, a good feeder, never once using medicine, drinking water only—
a swimmer in the river or bay or by the sea-shore—of straight attitude and slow movement on foot—an indescribable style evincing indifference and disdain—ample limbed, weight a hundred and eighty pounds, age thirty six years (1855)—never dressed in black, always dressed freely and clean in strong clothes, neck open, shirt collar flat and broad, countenance of swarthy transparent red, beard short and well mottled with white, hair like hay after it has been mowed in the field and lies tossed and streaked—face not refined or intellectual, but calm and wholesome—a face of an unaffected animal—a face that absorbs the sunshine and meets savage or gentleman on equal terms—a face of one who eats and drinks and is a brawny lover and embracer—a face of undying friendship toward men and women, and of one who finds the same returned many fold—a face with two gray eyes where passion and hauteur sleep, and melancholy stands behind them—his physiology corroborating a rugged phrenology*—a spirit that mixes cheerfully with the world—a person singularly beloved and welcomed, especially by young men and mechanics—one who has firm attachments there, and associates there—one who does not associate with literary and elegant people—one of the two men sauntering along the street with their arms over each others' shoulders, his companion some boatman or shipjoiner, or from the hunting tent or lumber-raft—one who has that quality of attracting the best out of people that they present to him none of their meaner and stingier traits, but always their sweetest and most generous traits—a man never called upon to make speeches at public dinners, never on platforms amid the crowds of clergymen or professors or aldermen or congressmen—rather down in the bay with pilots in their pilot-boat—or off on a cruise with fishers in a fishing-smack—or with a band of laughers and roughs in the streets of the city or the open grounds of the country—fond of New York and Brooklyn—fond of the life of the wharves and the great ferries, or along Broadway, observing the endless wonders of that thoroughfare of the world—One whom, if you would meet, you need not expect to meet an extraordinary person—
one in whom you will see the singularity which consists in no singularity
—whose contact is no dazzling fascination, nor requires any deference, but has the easy fascination of what is homely and accustomed—of something you knew before, and was waiting for—of natural pleasures, and well-known places, and welcome familiar faces—perhaps of a remembrance of your brother or mother, or friend away or dead—There you have Walt Whitman, the begetter of a new offspring out of literature, taking with easy nonchalance the chances of its present reception, and, through all misunderstandings and distrusts, the chances of its future reception.

* Phrenological Notes on W. Whitman, by L. N. FOWLER, July 1849—This man has a grand physical constitution, and power to live to a good old age. He is undoubtedly descended from the soundest and hardiest stock. Size of brain large Leading traits of character appear to be Friendship Sympathy, Sublimity and Self-Esteem, and markedly among his combinations the dangerous faults of Indolence, a tendency to the pleasures of Voluptuousness and Alimentiveness, and a certain reckless swing of animal will, too unmindful, probably, of the convictions of others.

Amativeness large *6, Philoprogenitiveness 6, Adhesiveness 6, Inhabitiveness 6, Concentrativeness 4, Combativeness 6, Destructiveness 5 to 6, Alimentiveness 6, Acquisitiveness 4, Secretiveness 3, Cautiousness 6 Approbativeness 4, Self Esteem 6 to 7, Firmness 6 to 7, Conscientiousness 6, Hope 4, Marvellousness 3, Veneration 4, Benevolence 6 to 7, Constructiveness 5, Ideality 5 to 6, Sublimity 6 to 7, Imitation 5, Mirthfulness 5, Individuality 6, Form 6, Size 6, Weight 8, Color 3, Order 5, Calculation 5 Locality 6, Eventuality 6, Time 3, Tune 4, Language 5, Causality 5 to 6, Comparison 6, Suavitiveness 4, Intuitiveness or Human Nature 6.

* The organs are marked by figures from 1 to 7, indicating their degrees of development, 1 meaning very small, 2 small, 3 moderate, 4 average, 5 full, 6 large, and 7 very large.


From the United States Review.


An American bard at last!
One of the roughs, large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking, and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded, his postures strong and erect, his voice bringing hope and prophecy to the generous races of young and old.
We shall cease shamming and be what we really are.
We shall start an athletic and defiant literature.
We realize now how it is, and what was most lacking. The interior American republic shall also be declared free and independent.

For all our intellectual people, followed by their books, poems, novels, essays, editorials, lectures, tuitions, and criticism, dress by London and Paris modes, receive what is received there, obey the authorities, settle disputes by the old tests, keep out of rain and sun, retreat to the shelter of houses and schools, trim their hair, shave, touch not the earth barefoot, and enter not the sea except in a complete bathing-dress. One sees unmistakably genteel persons, travelled, college-learned, used to be served by servants, conversing without heat or vulgarity, supported on chairs, or walking through handsomely-carpeted parlors, or along shelves bearing well-bound volumes, and walls adorned with curtained and collared portraits, and china things, and nick-nacks. But where in American literature is the first show of America? Where are the gristle and beards, and broad breasts, and space and ruggedness and nonchalance that the souls of the people love?
Where is the tremendous outdoors of these States?
Where is the majesty of the federal mother, seated with more than antique grace, calm, just, indulgent to her brood of children, calling them around her, regarding the little and the large and the younger and the older with perfect impartiality? Where is the vehement growth of our cities? Where is the spirit of the strong rich life of the American mechanic, farmer, sailor, hunter, and miner? Where is the huge composite of all other nations, cast in a fresher and brawnier matrix, passing adolescence, and needed this day, live and arrogant, to lead the marches of the world?

Self-reliant, with haughty eyes, assuming to himself all the attributes of his country, steps Walt Whitman into literature, talking like a man unaware that there was ever hitherto such a production as a book, or such a being as a writer.
Every move of him has the free play of the muscle of one who never knew what it was to feel that he stood in the presence of a superior.
Every word that falls from his mouth shows silent disdain and defiance of the old theories and forms. Every phrase announces new laws; not once do his lips unclose except in conformity with them. With light and rapid touch he first indicates in prose the principles of the foundation of a race of poets so deeply to spring from the American people, and become ingrained through them, that their Presidents shall not be the common referees so much as that great race of poets shall. He proceeds himself to exemplify this new school, and set models for their expression and range of subjects. He makes audacious and native use of his own body and soul. He must re-create poetry with the elements always at hand. He must imbue it with himself as he is, disorderly, fleshy, and sensual, a lover of things, yet a lover of men and women above the whole of the other objects of the universe. His work is to be achieved by unusual methods. Neither classic or romantic is he, nor a materialist any more than a spiritualist. Not a whisper comes out of him of the old stock talk and rhyme of poetry—not the first recognition of gods or goddesses, or Greece or Rome. No breath of Europe, or her monarchies, or priestly conventions, or her notions of gentlemen and ladies founded on the idea of caste, seems ever to have fanned his face or been inhaled into his lungs. But in their stead pour vast and fluid the fresh mentality of this mighty age, and the realities of this mighty continent, and the sciences and inventions and discoveries of the present world.
Not geology, nor mathematics, nor chemistry, nor navigation, nor astronomy, nor anatomy, nor phrenology, nor engineering, is more true to itself than Walt Whitman is true to them.
They and the other sciences underlie his whole superstructure. In the beauty of the work of the poet, he affirms, are the tuft and final applause of science.

Affairs then are this man's poems. He will still inject nature through civilization. The movement of his verses is the sweeping movement of great currents of living people, with a general government and state and municipal governments, courts, commerce, manufactures, arsenals, steamships, railroads,

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telegraphs, cities with paved streets, and acqueducts and police and gas—myriads of travelers arriving and departing—newspapers, elections, and all the features and processes of the nineteenth century in the wholesomest race and the only stable forms of politics at present upon the earth. Along his words spread the broad impartialities of the United States. No innovations must be permitted on the stern severities of our liberty and equality. Undecked also is this poet with sentimentalism, or jingle, or nice conceits of flowery similies. He appears in his poems surrounded by women and children, and by young men, and by common objects and qualities. He gives to each just what belongs to it, neither more nor less. That person nearest him, that person he ushers hand in hand with himself. Duly take places in his flowing procession, and step to the sounds of the newer and larger music, the essences of American things, and past and present events—the enormous diversity of temperature and agriculture and mines—the tribes of red aborigines—the weatherbeaten vessels entering new ports, or making landings on rocky coasts—the first settlements north and south—the rapid stature and impatience of outside control—the sturdy defiance of '76, and the war and peace, and the leadership of Washington, and the formation of the constitution—the union always surrounded by blatherers and always calm and impregnable—the perpetual coming of immigrants—the wharf-hemmed cities and superior marine—the unsurveyed interior—the loghouses and clearings and wild animals and hunters and trappers—the fisheries and whaling and gold-digging—the endless gestation of new states—the convening of Congress every December, the members coming up from all climates, and from the utmost parts—the noble character of the free American workman and workwoman—the fierceness of the people when well-roused—the ardor of their friendships—the large amativeness—the equality of the female with the male—the Yankee swap—the New York firemen and the target excursion—the southern plantation life—the character of the northeast and of the northwest and southwest—and the character of America and the American people everywhere. For these the old usages of poets afford Walt Whitman no means sufficiently fit and free, and he rejects the old usages. The style of the bard that is waited for is to be transcendant and new. It is to be indirect and not direct or descriptive or epic. Its quality is to go through these to much more. Let the age and wars (he says) of other nations be chanted, and their eras and characters be illustrated, and that finish the verse. Not so (he continues) the great psalm of the republic. Here the theme is creative and has vista. Here comes one among the well-beloved stonecutters, and announces himself, and plans with decision and science, and sees the solid and beautiful forms of the future where there are now no solid forms.

The style of these poems, therefore, is simply their own style, new-born and red. Nature may have given the hint to the author of the "Leaves of Grass," but there exists no book or fragment of a book which can have given the hint to them. All beauty, he says, comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain. His rhymth and uniformity he will conceal in the roots of his verses, not to be seen of themselves, but to break forth loosely as lilacs on a bush, and take shapes compact as the shapes of melons or chestnuts or pears.

The poems of the "Leaves of Grass" are twelve in number. Walt Whitman at first proceeds to put his own body and soul into the new versification:

"I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you."

He leaves houses and their shuttered rooms, for the open air. He drops disguise and ceremony, and walks forth with the confidence and gayety of a child. For the old decorums of writing he substitutes new decorums. The first glance out of his eyes electrifies him with love and delight. He will have the earth receive and return his affection; he will stay with it as the bridegroom stays with the bride. The coolbreath'd ground, the slumbering and liquid trees, the just-gone sunset, the vitreous pour of the full moon, the tender and growing night, he salutes and touches, and they touch him. The sea supports him with its powerful and crooked fingers. Dash me with amorous wet! then he says, I can repay you.

By this writer the rules of polite circles are dismissed with scorn. Your stale modesties, he seems to say, are filthy to such a man as I.

"I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing hearing and feeling are miracles, and each part and

tag of me is a miracle.

I do not press my finger across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and

Copulation is no more rank to me than death is."

No sniveller or skulker or tea-drinking poet or puny person or prude is Walt Whitman. He will bring poems fit to fill the days and nights—fit for men and women with the attributes of throbbing blood and flesh. The body, he teaches, is beautiful. Sex is also beautiful. Are you to be put down, he seems to ask, to that shallow level of literature and conversation that stops a man's recognizing the delicious pleasure of his sex, or a woman hers? Nature he proclaims inherently clean. Sex will not be put aside; it is a great ordination of the universe. He works the muscle of the male and the teeming fibre of the female throughout his writings, as wholesome realities, impure only by deliberate intention and effort. To men and women he says: You can have healthy and powerful breeds of children on no less terms than these of mine. Follow me and there shall be taller and richer crops of humanity on the earth.

In the "Leaves of Grass" are the facts of eternity and immortality, largely treated. Happiness is no dream and perfection is no dream. Amelioration is my lesson, he says with calm voice, and progress is my lesson and the lesson of all things. Then his persuasion becomes a taunt, and his love bitter and compulsory. With strong and steady call he addresses men. Come, he seems to say, from the midst of all that you have been your whole life surrounding yourself with. Leave all the preaching and teaching of others, and mind only these words of mine.

"Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of

every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and nod

to me and shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

I am the teacher of athletes,
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves

the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the


The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through de-

rived power but in his own right,
Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than a wound

First rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a

skiff, to sing a song, or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars and faces pitted with smallpox over all lath-

erers and those that keep out of the sun.

I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?
I follow you whoever you are from the present hour;
My words itch at your ears till you understand them.

I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up the time

while I wait for a boat;
It is you talking just as much as myself . . . . I act as the

tongue of you,
It was tied in your mouth . . . . in mine it begins to be loosened.

I swear I will never mention love or death inside a house,
And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to

him or her who privately stays with me in the open air."

The eleven other poems have each distinct purposes, curiously vailed. Theirs is no writer to be gone through with in a day or a month. Rather it is his pleasure to elude you and provoke you for deliberate purposes of his own.

Doubtless in the scheme this man has built for himself the writing of poems is but a proportionate part of the whole. It is plain that public and private performance, politics, love, friendship, behaviour, the art of conversation, science, society, the American people, the reception of the great novelties of city and country, all have their equal call upon him and receive equal attention. In politics he could enter with the freedom and reality he shows in poetry. His scope of life is the amplest of any yet in philosophy. He is the true spiritualist. He recognizes no annihilation or death or loss of identity. He is the largest lover and sympathizer that has appeared in literature. He loves the earth and sun and the animals. He does not separate the learned from the unlearned, the northerner from the southerner, the white from the black, or the native

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from the immigrant just landed at the wharf. Every one, he seems to say, appears excellent to me, every employment is adorned, and every male and female glorious.

"The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affec-

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamored of growing outdoors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wielders of axes

and mauls, of the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take

Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever."

If health were not his distinguishing attribute this poet would be the very harlot of persons. Right and left he flings his arms, drawing men and women with undeniable love to his close embrace, loving the clasp of their hands, the touch of their necks and breasts, and the sound of their voice. All else seems to burn up under his fierce affection for persons. Politics, religions, institutions, art, quickly fall aside before them. In the whole universe, he says, I see nothing more divine than human souls.

"When the psalm sings instead of singer,
When the script preaches instead of the preacher,
When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the carver

that carved the supporting desk,
When the sacred vessels or the bits of the eucharist, or the

lath and plast, procreate as effectually as the young sil-

versmiths or bakers, or the masons in their overalls,
When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman

aud child convince,
When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-

watchman's daughter,
When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite and are my

friendly companions,
I intend to reach them my hand and make as much of them

as I make of men and women."

Who then is that insolent unknown? Who is it, praising himself as if others were not fit to do it, and coming rough and unbidden among writers to unsettle what was settled, and to revolutionize in fact our modern civilization? Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, on the hills about thirty miles from the greatest American city, on the last day of May 1819, and has grown up in Brooklyn and New York to be thirty-six years old, to enjoy perfect health, and to understand his country and its spirit.

Interrogations more than this, and that will not be put off unanswered, spring continually through the perusal of these Leaves of Grass:

If there were to be selected, out of the incalculable volumes of printed matter in existence, any single work to stand for America and her times, should this be the work?

Must not the true American poet absorb all others, and present a new and far more ample and vigorous type?

Has not the time arrived for a school of live writing and tuition consistent with the principles of these poems?
consistent with the free spirit of this age, and with the American truths of politics? consistent with geology, and astronomy, and phrenology, and human physiology?
consistent with the sublimity of immortality and the directness of commonsense?

If in this poem the United States have found their poetic voice and taken measure and form, is it any more than a beginning? Walt Whitman himself disclaims singularity in his work, and announces the coming after him of great successions of poets, and that he but lifts his finger to give the signal.

Was he not needed? Has not literature been bred in and in long enough? Has it not become unbearably artificial?

Shall a man of faith and practice in the simplicity of real things be called eccentric, while the disciple of the fictitious school writes without question?

Shall it still be the amazement of the light and dark that freshness of expression is the rarest quality of all?

You have come in good time, Walt Whitman! In opinions, in manners, in costumes, in books, in the aims and occupancy of life, in associates, in poems, conformity to all unnatural and tainted customs passes without remark, while perfect naturalness, health, faith, self-reliance, and all primal expressions of the manliest love and friendship, subject one to the stare and controversy of the world.


From Putnam's Magazine, for September, 1855.

WALT WHITMAN'S LEAVES OF GRASS.—Our account of the last month's literature would be incomplete without some notice of a curious and lawless collection of poems, called Leaves of Grass, and issued in a thin quarto without the name of publisher or author. The poems, twelve in number, are neither in rhyme nor blank verse, but in a sort of excited prose broken into lines without any attempt at measure or regularity, and, as many readers will perhaps think, without any idea of sense or reason. The writer's scorn for the wonted usages of good writing, extends to the vocabulary he adopts; words usually banished from polite society are here employed without reserve and with perfect indifference as to their effect on the reader's mind; and not only is the book one not to be read aloud to a mixed audience, but the introduction of terms, never before heard or seen, and of slang expressions, often renders an otherwise striking passage altogether laughable. But as the writer is a new light in poetry, it is only fair to let him state his theory for himself. We extract from the preface:—


* * * * * * * * * *

The application of these principles, and of many others equally peculiar, which are expounded in a style equally oracular throughout the long preface, is made passim, and often with comical success, in the poems themselves, which may briefly be described as a compound of the New England transcendentalist and New York rowdy. A fireman or omnibus driver, who had intelligence enough to absorb the speculations of that school of thought which culminated at Boston some fifteen or eighteen years ago, and resources of expression to put them forth again in a form of his own, with sufficient self-conceit and contempt for public taste to affront all usual propriety of diction, might have written this gross yet elevated, this superficial yet profound, this preposterous yet somehow fascinating book. As we say, it is a mixture of Yankee transcendentalism and New York rowdyism, and, what must be surprising to both these elements, they here seem to fuse and combine with the most perfect harmony. The vast and vague conceptions of the one, lose nothing of their quality in passing through the coarse and odd intellectual medium of the other; while there is an original perception of nature, a manly brawn, and an epic directness in our new poet, which belong to no other adept of the transcendental school. But we have no intention of regularly criticising this very irregular production; our aim is rather to cull, from the rough and ragged thicket of its pages, a few passages equally remarkable in point of thought and expression. Of course we do not select those which are the most transcendental or the most bold:—

(Various and lengthened Extracts.)

* * * * * * * * * *

As seems very proper in a book of transcendental poetry, the author withholds his name from the title page, and presents his portrait, neatly engraved on steel, instead. This, no doubt, is upon the principle that the name is merely accidental; while the portrait affords an idea of the essential being from whom these utterances proceed. We must add, however, that this significant reticence does not prevail throughout the volume, for we learn on p. 29, that our poet is "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos." That he was an American, we knew before, for, aside from America, there is no quarter of the universe where such a production could have had a genesis. That he was one of the roughs was also tolerably plain; but that he was a kosmos, is a piece of news we were hardly prepared for. Precisely what a kosmos is, we hope Walt Whitman will take early occasion to inform the impatient public.

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From the Criterion, November, 10th, 1855.
Leaves of Grass, By Walt Whitman. 1855.

An unconsidered letter of introduction has oftentimes procured the admittance of a scurvy fellow into good society, and our apology for permitting any allusion to the above volume in our columns is, that it has been unworthily recommended by a gentleman of wide repute, and might, on that account, obtain access to respectable people, unless its real character were exposed.

Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson either recognises and accepts these "leaves," as the gratifying result of his own peculiar doctrines, or else he has hastily endorsed them, after a partial and superficial reading. If it is of any importance he may extricate himself from the dilemma. We, however, believe that this book does express the bolder results of a certain transcendental kind of thinking, which some may have styled philosophy.

As to the volume itself, we have only to remark, that it strongly fortifies the doctrines of the Metempsychosists, for it is impossible to imagine how any man's fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love. This poet (?) without wit, but with a certain vagrant wildness, just serves to show the energy which natural imbecility is occasionally capable of under strong excitement.

There are too many persons, who imagine they demonstrate their superiority to their fellows, by disregarding all the politenesses and decencies of life, and, therefore, justify themselves in indulging the vilest imaginings and shamefullest license. But nature, abhorring the abuse of the capacities she has given to man, retaliates upon him, by rendering extravagant indulgence in any direction followed by an insatiable, ever-consuming, and never to be appeased passion.

Thus, to these pitiful beings, virtue and honor are but names. Bloated with self-conceit, they strut abroad unabashed in the daylight, and expose to the world the fostering sores that overlay them like a garment. Unless we admit this exhibition to be beautiful, we are at once set down for non-progressive conservatives, destitute of the "inner light," the far-seeingness which, of course, characterizes those gifted individuals. Now, any one who has noticed the tendency of thought in these later years, must be aware that a quantity of this kind of nonsense is being constantly displayed. The immodesty of presumption exhibited by these seers; their arrogant pretentiousness; the complacent smile with which they listen to the echo of their own braying, should be, and we believe is, enough to disgust the great majority of sensible folks; but, unfortunately, there is a class that, mistaking sound for sense, attach some importance to all this rant and cant. These candid, these ingenuous, these honest "progressionists;" these human diamonds without flaws; these men that have come, detest furiously all shams; "to the pure, all things are pure;" they are pure, and, consequently, must thrust their reeking presence under every man's nose.

They seem to think that man has no instinctive delicacy; is not imbued with a conservative and preservative modesty, that acts as a restraint upon the violence of passions, which, for a wise purpose, have been made so strong. No! these fellows have no secrets, no disguises; no, indeed! But they do have, conceal it by whatever language they choose, a degrading, beastly sensuality, that is fast rotting the healthy core of all the social virtues.

There was a time when licentiousness laughed at reproval; now it writes essays and delivers lectures. Once it shunned the light; now it courts attention, writes books showing how grand and pure it is, and prophesies from its lecherous lips its own ultimate triumph.

Shall we argue with such men? Shall we admit them into our houses, that they may leave a foul odor, contaminate the pure, healthful air? Or shall they be placed in the same category with the comparatively innocent slave of poverty, ignorance and passion, that skulks along in the shadows of byways; even in her deep degradation possessing some sparks of the Divine light, the germ of good that reveals itself by a sense of shame?

Thus, then, we leave this gathering of muck to the laws which, certainly, if they fulfil their intent, must have power to suppress such obscenity. As it is entirely destitute of wit, there is no probability that any would, after this exposure, read it in the hope of finding that; and we trust no one will require further evidence—for, indeed, we do not believe there is a newspaper so vile that would print confirmatory extracts.

In our allusions to this book, we have found it impossible to convey any, even the most faint idea of its style and contents, and of our disgust and detestation of them, without employing language that cannot be pleasing to ears polite; but it does seem that some one should, under circumstances like these, undertake a most disagreeable, yet stern duty. The records of crime show that many monsters have gone on in impunity, because the exposure of their vileness was attended with too great indelicacy. "Peccatum illud horribile, inter Christianos non nominandum."


From the American Phrenological Journal.

Leaves of Grass. Poems by Walt Whitman. 1855.

Maud and other Poems. By Alfred Tennyson. 1855.

It is always reserved for second-rate poems immediately to gratify. As first-rate or natural objects, in their perfect simplicity and proportion, do not startle or strike, but appear no more than matters of course, so probably natural poetry does not, for all its being the rarest, and telling of the longest and largest work. The artist or writer whose talent is to please the connoisseurs of his time, may obey the laws of his time, and achieve the intense and elaborated beauty of parts. The perfect poet cannot afford any special beauty of parts, or to limit himself by any laws less than those universal ones of the great masters, which include all times, and all men and women, and the living and the dead. For from the study of the universe is drawn this irrefragable truth, that the law of the requisites of a grand poem, or any other complete workmanship, is originality, and the average and superb beauty of the ensemble. Possessed with this law, the fitness of aim, time, persons, places, surely follows. Possessed with this law, and doing justice to it, no poet or any one else will make anything ungraceful or mean, any more than any emanation of nature is.

The poetry of England, by the many rich geniuses of that wonderful little island, has grown out of the facts of the English race, the monarchy and aristocracy prominent over the rest, and conforms to the spirit of them. No nation ever did or ever will receive with national affection any poets except those born of its national blood. Of these, the writings express the finest infusions of government, traditions, faith, and the dependence or independence of a people, and even the good or bad physiognomy, and the ample or small geography. Thus what very properly fits a subject of the British crown may fit very ill an American freeman. No fine romance, no inimitable delineation of character, no grace of delicate illustrations, no rare picture of shore or mountain or sky, no deep thought of the intellect, is so important to a man as his opinion of himself is; everything receives its tinge from that. In the verse of all those undoubtedly great writers, Shakespeare just as much as the rest, there is the air which to America is the air of death. The mass of the people, the laborers and all who serve, are slag, refuse. The countenances of kings and great lords are beautiful; the countenances of mechanics are ridiculous and deformed. What play of Shakespeare, represented in America, is not an insult to America, to the marrow in its bones? How can the tone never silent in their plots and characters be applauded, unless Washington should have been caught and hung, and Jefferson was the most enormous of liars, and common persons north and south should bow low to their betters, and to organic superiority of blood? Sure as the heavens envelop the earth, if the Americans want a race of bards worthy of 1855, and of the stern reality of this republic, they must cast around for men essentially different from the old poets, and from the modern successions of jinglers and snivellers and fops.

English versification is full of these danglers, and America follows after them. Everybody writes poetry, and yet there is

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not a single poet. An age greater than the proudest of the past is swiftly slipping away, without one lyric voice to seize its greatness and speak it as an encouragement and onward lesson. We have heard, by many grand announcements, that he was to come; but will he come?

"A mighty Poet whom this age shall choose
To be its spokesman to all coming times.
In the ripe full-blown season of his soul,
He shall go forward in his spirit's strength,
And grapple with the questions of all time,
And wring from them their meanings. As King Saul
Called up the buried prophet from his grave
To speak his doom, so shall this Poet-king
Call up the dread past from its awful grave
To tell him of our future. As the air
Doth sphere the world, so shall his heart of love—
Loving mankind, not peoples. As the lake
Reflects the flower, tree, rock, and bending heaven,
Shall he reflect our great humanity;
And as the young Spring breathes with living breath
On a dead branch, till it sprouts fragrantly
Green leaves and sunny flowers, shall he breathe life
Through every theme he touch, making all Beauty
And Poetry forever like the stars."—(Alexander Smith.)

The best of the school of poets at present received in Great Britain and America is Alfred Tennyson. He is the bard of ennui and of the aristocracy and their combination into love. This love is the old stock love of playwrights and romancers, Shakespeare the same as the rest. It is possessed of the same unnatural and shocking passion for some girl or woman, that wrenches it from its manhood, emasculated and impotent, without strength to hold the rest of the objects and goods of life in their proper positions. It seeks nature for sickly uses.
It goes screaming and weeping after the facts of the universe, in their calm beauty and equanimity, to note the occurrence of itself, and to sound the news, in connection with the charms of the neck, hair, or complexion of a particular female.

Poetry, to Tennyson and his British and American eleves, is a gentleman of the first degree, boating, fishing, and shooting genteely through nature, admiring the ladies, and talking to them in company with that elaborate half-choked deference that is to be made up by the terrible license of men among themselves.
The spirit of the burnished society of upper-class England fills this writer and his effusions from top to toe.
Like that, he does not ignore courage and the superior qualities of men, but all is to show forth through dandyfied forms.
He meets the nobility and gentry half-way. The models are the same both to the poet and the parlors. Both have the same supercilious elegance, both love the reminiscences which extol caste, both agree on the topics proper for mention and discussion, both hold the same undertone of church and state, both have the same languishing melancholy and irony, both indulge largely in persiflage, both are marked by the contour of high blood and a constitutional aversion to any thing cowardly and mean, both accept the love depicted in romances as the great business of a life or a poem, both seem unconscious of the mighty truths of eternity and immortality, both are silent on the presumptions of liberty and equality, and both devour themselves in solitary lassitude. Whatever may be said of all this, it harmonizes and represents facts. The present phases of high-life in Great Britain are as natural a growth there as Tennyson and his poems are a natural growth of those phases. It remains to be distinctly admitted that this man is a real poet, notwithstanding his ennui and his aristocracy.

Meanwhile a strange voice parts others aside and demands for its owner that position that is only allowed after the seal of many returning years has stamped with approving stamp the claims of the loftiest leading genius. Do you think the best honors of the earth are won so easily Walt Whitman? Do you think city and country are to fall before the vehement egotism of your recitative of yourself?

The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell

are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself . . . . the latter I

translate into a new tongue.

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

I chant a new chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,
I show that size is only developement."

It is indeed a strange voice! Critics and lovers and readers of poetry as hitherto written, may well be excused the chilly and unpleasant shudders which will assuredly run through them, to their very blood and bones, when they first read Walt Whitman's poems. If this is poetry, where must its foregoers stand? And what is at once to become of the ranks of rhymesters, melancholy and swallow-tailed, and of all the confectioners and upholsters of verse, if the tan-faced man here advancing and claiming to speak for America and the nineteenth hundred of the Christian list of years, typifies indeed the natural and proper bard?

"The friendly and flowing savage . . . . Who is he?
Is he waiting for civilization, or past it and mastering it?
Is he some southwesterner raised outdoors? Is he Cana-

Is he from the Mississippi country? or from Iowa, Oregon,

or California? or from the mountains? or prairie-life

or bush-life? or from the sea?

Wherever he goes men and women accept and desire him,
They desire he should like them and touch them and speak

to them and stay with them.

Behaviour lawless as snow-flakes . . . . words simple as grass

. . . . uncombed head and laughter and naivete;
Slowstepping feet and the common features, and the com-

mon modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath . . . .

they fly out of the glance of his eyes."

Not a borrower from other lands, but a prodigal user of his own land is Walt Whitman. Not the refined life of the drawing-room—not dancing and polish and gentility, but some powerful uneducated person, and some harsh identity of sound, and all wild free forms, are grateful to him. A thrill of his own likeness strikes him as the spotted hawk wheels noisily near his head at nightfall, and he is fain to say,

"I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."

He is sterile on the old myths, and on all the customary themes of romantic and classical writers, but pregnant with the deductions of the geologist, the astronomer, the great antiquary, the chemist, the phrenologist, the spiritualist, the mathematician, and with the ideas and practice of American politics. Individuals and personal incidents are not given by him at second-hand: he himself assumes and becomes any character, one after another—the child uttering fancies about the grass—the curious meditator reclining on a bank of a summer forenoon, and holding a long colloquy of love with his own soul—the friendly mate and companion of people—now riding from the fields atop of the load of hay on its way to the barn—or in the most crowded rush of a great city—or hunting alone over the mountains or far in the wilds—sailing in the Yankee clipper under her three skysails—one of a chowder-party with boatmen or clam-diggers—giving shelter to the runaway slave—beholding the marriage of the trapper to the red girl in the far west—or bathing with bathers by the sea-side—absorbing all pleasures and all pains—learning lessons of animals and birds—merged in any affair or person—in the carpenter dressing his plank—the pilot who seizes the kingpin of the wheel—the driver who drives the dray of the stone-yard—the spinning girl advancing forward and retreating backward—the canal-boy on the tow-path—the pavior with his wooden beetle—the drover singing out to his drove—the Wolverine setting traps by the Huron—the Missourian crossing the plains with his wares and his cattle—the flatboatman making fast at night near the shores of cottonwood and pekantrees—the hunter and trapper resting after their day's sport in the hut of adobe—the mourning widow looking out on the winter midnight—the Yankee or the Texan—the Georgian, the lumberer of Maine, the Kentuckian, Ohian, Louisianian, or Californian—mechanic, author, artist or schoolboy—thinker of the thoughts of all men in all ages—appreciator of the nearest and readiest, and traveler from the most distant and diverse.

The theory and practice of poets have hitherto been to select certain ideas or events or personages, and then describe them in the best manner they could, always with as much ornament as the case allowed. Such are not the theory and practice of the new poet. He never presents for perusal a poem ready-made on the old models, and ending when you come to the end of it; but every sentence and every passage tells of an interior not always seen, and exudes an impalpable something which sticks to him that reads, and pervades and provokes him to

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tread the half-invisible road where the poet, like an apparition, is striding fearlessly before. If Walt Whitman's premises are true then there is a subtler range of poetry than that of the grandeur and life of events, as in Homer, or of characters, as in Shakespeare—poetry to which all other writing is subservient, and which confronts the very meanings of the works of nature and competes with them. It is the direct bringing of occurrences and persons and things to bear on the listener or beholder, to re-appear through him or her; and it offers the best way of making them a part of him and her as the right aim of the greatest poet.

Of the spirit of life in visible forms—of the spirit of the seed growing out of the ground—of the spirit of the resistless motion of the globe passing unsuspected but quick as lightning along its orbit—of them is the spirit of this man's poetry. Like them it eludes and mocks criticism, and appears unerringly in results. Things, facts, events, persons, days, ages, qualities, tumble pell-mell exhaustless and copious, with what appear to be the same disregard of parts and the same absence of special purpose, as in nature. But the voice of the few rare and controlling critics, and the voice of more than one generation of men or two generations of men, must speak for the inexpressible purposes of nature and for this haughtiest of writers that has ever yet written and printed a book. His is to prove either the most lamentable of failures or the most glorious of triumphs, in the known history of literature. And after all we have written we confess our brain-felt and heart-felt inability to decide which we think it is likely to be.


From the London Eclectic Review, July, 1850.


"Poetry is declining—poetry is being extinguished—poetry is extinct. To talk of poetry now is eccentricity—to write it is absurdity—to publish it is moonstruck madness." So the changes are rung. Now, it is impossible to deny that what is called poetry has become a drug, a bore, and nuisance, and that the name "Poet," as commonly applied, is at present about the shabbiest in the literary calendar. But we are far from believing that poetry is extinct. We entertain, on the contrary, sanguine hopes of its near and glorious resurrection. Soon do we hope to hear those tones of high melody, which are now like the echos of forgotten thunder:

"From land to land re-echoed solemnly,
Till silence become music."
We expect, about the very time, when the presumption against the revivication of poetry shall have attained the appearance of absolute certainty, to witness a Tenth Avatar of Genius—and to witness its effect, too, upon the sapient personages who had been predicting that it was forever departed.

But this, it seems, is "not a poetical age." For our parts, we know not what age has not been poetical—in what age have not existed all the elements of poetry, been developed all its passions, and been heard many of its tones. "Were the dark ages poetical?" it will be asked. Yes, for then, as now, there was pathos—there was passion—there were hatred, revenge, love, grief, despair, religion. Wherever there is the fear of death and of judgment, there is, and must be poetry—and when was that feeling more intensely developed than during that dim period? The victims of a spell are objects of poetical interest. Here was a strong spell embracing a world. Was no arm during the dark ages bared aloft in defense of outraged innocence? Or was no head then covered with the snows of a hundred winters, through one midnight despair? Was the voice of prayer then stifled throughout Europe's hundred lands? Was the mighty heart of man—the throbbing of which is just poetry, then utterly silent?

* * * * * * * *

The misfortune is, that men will not look at the essential poetry which is lying around them, and under their feet. They suppose their age to be unpoetical, merely because they grapple not with its great excitements, nor will venture to sail upon its "mighty stream of tendency." They overlook the volcano on the next mountain—while admiring or deploring those which have been extinct for centuries, or those which are a thousand miles away. They are afraid that if they catch the spirit of their age in verse, they will give it a temporary stamp; and therefore they either abstain from writing, and take to abusing the age on which they have unluckily fallen, or else come to the some resolution after an unsuccessful attempt to revive faded stimulants. Dante embodied, for instance, his countrymen's rude conception of future punishment—and he did well. But our modern religious poets have never ventured to meddle with those moral aspects of the subject which have now so generally supplanted the material. They talk instead, with Pollock, of the "rocks of dark damnation," or outrage common sense by such barbarous mis creations as he has sculptured on the gate of hell, and think they have written an "Inferno," or that, if they have failed, it is because their age is not poetical.

Indeed, the least poetry is sometimes written in the most poetical ages. Men, when acting poetry, have little time either to write or to read it. There was less poetry written in the age of Charles I, than in that which preceded it, and more poetry enacted. But the majority of men only listen to reverberations of emotion in song. They sympathize not with poetry, but with poets. And, therefore, when a cluster of poets die, or are buried before they be dead, they chant dirges over the death of poetry—as if it ever did or ever could die! as if its roots, which are just the roots of the human soul, were perishable—as if, especially when a strong current of excitement was flowing, it were not plain, that there was a poetry which should, in due time, develop its own masters to record and prolong it forever. Surely, as long as the grass is green and the sky is blue, as long as man’s heart is warm and woman's face is fair, poetry, like seed-time and harvest, like summer and winter shall not cease.

There was little poetry, some people think, about England's civil war, because the leader of one party was a red-nosed fanatic. They, for their part, can not extract poetry from a red nose; but they are in raptures with Milton. Fools! but for that civil war, its high and solemn excitement, the deeds and daring of that red-nosed fanatic, would the "Paradise Lost" ever have been written, or written as it has been? That stupendous edifice of genius seems cemented by the blood of Naseby and of Marston Moor.

Such persons, too, see little that is poetical in the American struggle—no mighty romance in tumbling a few chests of tea into the Atlantic. Washington they think insipid; and because America has produced hitherto no great poet, its whole history they regard as a gigantic commonplace—thus ignoring the innumerable deeds of derring-do which distinguished that immortal contest—blinding their eyes to the "lines of empire" in the "infant face of that cradled Hercules," and the tremendous sprawling of his nascent strength—and seeking to degrade those forests into whose depths a path for the sunbeams must be hewn and where lightning appears to enter trembling, and to withdraw in haste; forests which must one day drop down a poet, whose genius shall be worthy of their age, their vastitude, the beauty which they inclose, and the load of grandeur below which they bend.

* * * * * * * *

Surely our age, too, abounds in the elements of poetical excitement, awaiting only fit utterance. The harvest is rich and ripe—and nothing now is wanting but laborers to put in the sickle.

* * * * * * * *

But "the age will not now read poetry." True, it will not read whatever bears the name; it will not read nursery themes; nor tenth-rate imitations of Byron, Scott, or Wordsworth; nor the effusions either of mystical cant, or of respectable commonplace; nor yet very willingly the study-sweepings of reputed men, who deem, in their complacency, that the world is gaping for the rinsings of their intellect. But it will read genuine poetry, if it be accommodated to the wants of the age, and if it be fairly brought before it. "Vain to cast pearls before swine!" Cast down the pearls before you call the men of the age swine. In truth, seldom had a true and new poet a fairer field, or the prospect of a wider favor, than at this very time. The age remembers that many of those poets it now delights to honor, were at first received with obloquy or neglect. It is not so likely to renew the disgraceful sin, since it recollects the disgraceful repentance. It is becoming wide awake, and is ready to recognize every symptom of original power. The reviews and literary journals are still, indeed, comparatively an unfair medium; but by their multitude and their contradictions, have neutralized each others power, and rendered the public less willing and less apt to be bullied or blackguarded out of its senses. Were Hazlitt alive now, and called, by any miserable scribbler in the "Athenæum" or "Spectator," a dunce,

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he could laugh in his face, instead of retiring as he did, perhaps hunger-bitten, to bleed out his heart's blood in secret. Were Shelley now called in "Blackwood" a madman, and Keats a mannikin, they would be as much disturbed by it as the moon at the baying of a Lapland wolf. The good old art, in short, of writing an author up or down, is dying hard, but dying fast; the public is beginning to follow the strange, new fashion of discarding its timid, or truculent, or too-much seasoned tasters, and judging for itself. We have often imaged to ourselves the rapture with which a poet, of proper proportions and due culture, if writing in his age's spirit, would be received in an age when the works of Coleridge, and Wordsworth, and Keats, are so widely read and thoroughly appreciated. He would find it "all ear."

Great things, however, must be done by the man who cherishes this high ambition. He must not only be at once a genius and an artist, but his art and his genius must be proportioned, with chemical exactness, to each other. He must not only be a poet, but have a distinct mission and message, savoring of the prophetic—he must say as well as sing. He must use his poetic powers as wonders attesting the purpose for which he speaks—not as mere bravados of ostentatious power. He must, while feeling the beauty, the charm, and the meaning of mysticism, stand above it, on a clear and sunlighted peak, and incline rather to the classical and masculine, than to the abstract and transcendental. His genius should be less epic and didactic, than lyrical and popular. He should be not so much the Homer as the Tyrtæus of this strange time. He should have sung over to himself the deep controversies of his age, and sought to reduce them into an unique and intelligible harmony. Into scales of doubt, equally balanced, he should be ready to threw his lyre as a makeweight. Not a partisan of either the old or the new, he should seek to set in song the numerous points in which they agree, and strive to produce a glorious synthesis between them. He should stand (as on a broad platform) on the identity and eternity of all that is good and true—on the fact that "faiths never die, but are only translated"—on the fact that beauty physical and beauty moral are in heart the same; and that Christianity, as rightly understood, is at once the root and the flower of all truth—and, standing on this, should sing his fearless strains to the world. He should give a high idea of his art—counting it a lower inspiration, a sacred trust, a minor grace—a plant from seed originally dropped out of the paradise of God! He should find in it a work, and not a recreation—an affair of life, not of moments of leisure. And while appealing, by his earnestness, his faith, his holiness, his genius, to the imagination, the heart, and the conscience of man, he should possess, or attain to, the mechanical ingenuity that can satisfy man's constructive understanding, the elegance that can please his sensuous taste, the fluency that can blend ease with instruction, and the music that can touch through the ear the inner springs of his being. Heart and genius, art and nature, sympathy with man and God, love of the beautiful apparition of the universe, and of that divine halo of Christianity which surrounds its head, must be united in our poet. He should conjoin Byron's energy—better controlled; Shelley's earnestness—better instructed; Keats's sensibility—guarded and armed; Wordsworth's Christianized love of Nature; and Coleridge's Christianized view of philosophy—to his own fancy, language, melody, and purpose; a lofty ideal of man the spirit, to a deep sympathy with man the worm, toiling, eating, drinking, struggling, falling, rising, and progressing, amidst his actual environments, and become the Magnus Apollo of our present age.

Perhaps we have fixed the standard too high, and forced a renewal of the exclamation in Rasselas, "Thou hast convinced me that no man can ever be a poet"—or, at least, the poet thus described. But nothing, we are persuaded, is in the imagination which may not be in the fact. * * * * *



. . . . . . What sensible man or woman has not felt that there should be far broader and higher flights of poetry than any at present pursued? Who is not sick of the rush of snivelling and sentimental poems? Who does not tire of rhymes, anyhow—and of regularly continued metre? even the best of both? Who demands any more, (who dare write any more?) Lines to a False Friend, or to A. B., or To the Skylark, or On Hope, or Hagar, or Niagara, or Hyperion, or Death, or The Last Throb, or The Oak, (or any other of the vegetable kingdom,) or the Ojibeways or Montauks, or The Deity, or this or that of the Angels, or especially to Apollo or Minerva, or any Grecian myth? Of these separate and complete by themselves, and of any of the like of these, and of narratives, biographies, and histories, only properly told in prose, must Poetry divest itself, with perfect grace and good nature, and become the exponent of a new spirit through new forms. Such is demanded by authority greater than all the critics of Europe and America, the common sense and common instinct of the people. The new forms are not to be judged by the old models, but are to be judged by themselves. Wordsworth truly said that every original first-rate poet must himself make the taste through which he is to be fully understood and appreciated.

If nothing better remained—if it were not eligible to give America and her wonderful mentalities and realities through a poetry of freer and more inspiring modes than any preceding ones, then is denied to our nation the one thing needful, Expression, without which all the rest is bitterness. Even for the narrow and patient lands of Europe, existent poetry ceases to answer. Carlyle represents a contemporary Reviewer taking leave of the Belles-Lettres department somewhat in this abrupt manner: "The end having come, it is fit that we end. Poetry having ceased to be read, or published, or written, how can it continue to be reviewed? With your Lake Schools, and Border-Thief School, and Cockney and Satanic Schools, there has been enough to do; and now, all these Schools having burnt or smouldered themselves out, and left nothing but a wide-spread wreck of ashes, dust, and cinders—or perhaps dying embers, kicked to and fro under the feet of innumerable women and children in the Magazines, and at best blown here and there into transient sputters . . . . . . What remains but to adjust ourselves to circumstances? Urge me not," continues this desperate Literateur, "with considerations that Poetry, as the inward Voice of Life, must be perennial, only dead in one form to become alive in another; that this still abundant deluge of Metre seeing there must needs be fractions of Poetry floating, scattered in it, ought still to be net-fished, at all events, surveyed and taken note of: The survey of English metre, at this epoch, perhaps transcends the human faculties; to hire out the reading of it by estimate, at a remunerative rate per page, would, in a few quarters, reduce the cash-box of any extant review to the verge of insolvency."


. . . . And this may be said of all the highest truths in the universe—they are above proof. All poetry is above proof—all sentiment, feeling, taste, is above proof. No man can prove poetry to be good or true. When the poet writes—

God plants his footsteps on the sea,
And rides upon the storm,
he cannot prove it; and the attempt to prove it shows it to be nonsense. It is accepted as poetry so long as you do not attempt to demonstrate it, but the attempt destroys it; and so it is with all poetry whatever, and with high art; no statue or picture can be proved to be beautiful. Beauty is above proof. To be above proof, therefore, is not to be out of the sphere of truth, but rather to be in the sphere of high truth, which minds that deal in proved things only cannot reach.
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