Read Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition by Walt Whitman Free Online
Book Title: Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition|
The author of the book: Walt Whitman
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 382 KB
Edition: Penguin Classic
Date of issue: July 10th 1961
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Read full description of the books Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition:It is becoming increasingly trendy to chalk up success to practice and hard work. We have the famous 10,000 hours from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and a similar theme from Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, just to name two examples. But it seems to me that some people were just born to do what they did, that no amount of practice could ever have produced something so fresh, original, new, and revolutionary.
Take Montaigne. He invented a new genre (the essay), pioneered a free and easy prose style, and popularized a down-to-earth skeptical attitude. There was no precedent to his proclamation that he would write about only himself. To be sure, he worked very hard on his essays—going over them again and again, crossing out a line here, adding one there. But it wasn’t the practicing that made him special, it was that his essays were the expression of an entirely original type of person, who effortlessly broke every rule.
Walt Whitman is a similar case. Though free verse had precedents in the Biblical psalms, no poet had emancipated himself so completely from prosody, rhythm, and rhyme. Though deism was trendy with the Transcendentalists, Emerson’s and Thoreau’s perspectives were a far cry from Whitman’s mysticism. Not to mention that his celebration of the bodily pleasures and sexuality scandalized nearly everybody. Could 10,000 hours of anything have produced that? How do you practice to be original?
This is all besides the point, I suppose. This poem is gorgeous. It’s so modern in its sensibilities, I almost want to say that it could have been written in the 50s or 60s; but Whitman’s reverence for nature, love, and life was so pure and raw, that no disillusioned Cold War drug fueled Beats or Hippies could have come close. There is nothing trendy in his poetry—he was a member of no movement. He was not writing in verse to 'rebel’ against anything, but to celebrate everything he saw worth celebrating.
At his worst, Whitman is repetitive: continually rehashing ideas and imagery, and producing some uninspiring lists. But at his best, Whitman is revelatory. When the force of his original perspective is married to the force of his original style, the product is as extraordinary as it is inimitable. The words and ideas are woven around each other like a vine growing around a tree, producing a poem that lives and breathes—so freshly harvested from his mind, that even now it seems to still have dirt and roots clinging to it.
I’m happy to see that America has produced a poet capable of upholding the democratic principle without descending into ‘just one of us plain folksiness’. And I’m glad to see that America has produced an individualist that is not peevish and immature. I’m saying “America produced," but I’m not really sure what mysterious force results in people like Whitman and Montaigne. But it sure as hell ain’t 10,000 hours.
Read information about the authorWalter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.
Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842).
After working as clerk, teacher, journalist and laborer, Whitman wrote his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, pioneering free verse poetry in a humanistic celebration of humanity, in 1855. Emerson, whom Whitman revered, said of Leaves of Grass that it held "incomparable things incomparably said." During the Civil War, Whitman worked as an army nurse, later writing Drum Taps (1865) and Memoranda During the War (1867). His health compromised by the experience, he was given work at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. After a stroke in 1873, which left him partially paralyzed, Whitman lived his next 20 years with his brother, writing mainly prose, such as Democratic Vistas (1870). Leaves of Grass was published in nine editions, with Whitman elaborating on it in each successive edition. In 1881, the book had the compliment of being banned by the commonwealth of Massachusetts on charges of immorality. A good friend of Robert Ingersoll, Whitman was at most a Deist who scorned religion. D. 1892.
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