Many a student has decried various types of poetry for its form and structure while enjoying the free verse works of poets such as T. S. Elliot and Robert Frost. Students, however, frequently neglect the Civil War era poet Walt Whitman who is, to this day, considered the Father of free verse. While Whitman did not invent free verse, he secured its role in the American psyche. Even with his accomplishments, Whitman's life was not without trials; he concluded schooling and began working at age eleven. This early independence and the trials that followed forced Whtiman to seek spiritual solace to cope. Whitman's search for a greater meaning becomes evident in his poetry and drives his works. From his early works such as “There Was A Child That Went Forth” that paint the picture of Whitman as a fiercely independent young man. His middle works such as “When I Heard The Learn'd Astronomer show his growing displeasure with society while Whitman's spirituality is on display in his later works such as “The Noiseless Patient Spider”.
Walter Whitman was born May 31st, 1819 in West Hills, Long Island. At the age of eleven his formal schooling was concluded and took up employment at a law firm. After the law firm Whitman began to work in journalism. By the age of fifteen Whitman was riding a daily fairy from Brooklyn to Manhattan where he interacted with the general population whom he felt “most at home” with. In 1835 Whitman was forced home, after five years as a traveling school teacher he had founded his own newspaper. After years of working in journalism and moving back in with his family to support them financially, in 1854 Whitman released his first edition of Leaves of Grass containing twelve poems. After, in Whitman's own words, “33 y'rs of hackling at it”, the final “deathbed” edition of Leaves of Grass was released containing hundreds of poems. After years of declining health and debilitating strokes Walter Whitman Jr died on March 26, 1892. Throughout the journey of Whitman's life his work shows a growing disillusionment with humanity and subsequent spiritual search for peace. (Connors).
Whitman: The child that went forth.
Whitman's first publishing of Leaves of Grass contained a precious few poems; Leaves of Grass would eventually grow into a complicated work containing hundreds of poems that grapple with complex themes of Whitman's life including even his own sexuality; something he struggled with “through notebook jottings for the rest of his life”(Connors). Even in this early form, thirty-three years before its final edition, Leaves of Grass contains strong connections to Whitman's life and his spirituality.
Whitman's childhood was laced with changes, moving from his family's farm at age four to New York City. A move, that according to Judith Connors in her biography of Whitman, marked a shift in Whitman's life that would influence all of his work. Evidence of this move and of Whitman's initial disillusionment with society can be seen...