Published Works


About this Item

Title: For Queen Victoria's Birthday

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: May 24, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: per.00145

Source: Philadelphia Public Ledger 24 May 1890: 9. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the periodical poems, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, and Susan Belasco

image 1

cropped image 1



An American arbutus bunch, to be put in a little vase, on the royal breakfast table, May 24th, 1890.


Lady, accept a birthday thought—haply an
idle gift and token,
Right from the scented soil's May-utterance
(Smelling of countless blessings, prayers,
and old-time thanks),
A bunch of white and pink arbutus, silent,
spicy, shy,
From Hudson's, Delaware's or Potomac's
woody banks.


NOTE.—Very little, as we Americans stand this day, with our sixty-five or seventy millions of population, an immense surplus in the treasury, and all that actual power or reserved power (land and sea) so dear to nations—very little, I say, do we realize that curious crawling national shudder when the "Trent affair" promised to bring upon us a war with Great Britain—followed by unquestionably as that war would have, by recognition of the Southern Confedaracy from all the leading European nations. It is now certain that all this then inevitable train of calamity hung on arrogant and peremptory phrases in the prepared and written missive of the British Minister to America, which the Queen (and Prince Albert latent) positively and promptly cancelled; and which her firm attitude did alone actually erase and leave out, against all the other official prestige and court of St. James's. On such minor and personal incidents (so to call them), often depend the great growths and turns of civilization. This moment of a woman and a queen surely swung the grandest oscillation of modern history's pendulum. Many sayings and doings of that period, from foreign potentates and powers, might well be dropped in oblivion by America, but never this, if I could have my way.

W. W.


1. This poem was reprinted in the Critic, 16 (24 May 1890), 262 and in four London periodicals. It was included without the note in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891). [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.