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Walt Whitman's Life In Words Essay

1442 words - 6 pages

October 20, 2009Walt Whitman was born in 1819 on Long Island, New york. He was the son of a carpenter, Walt Whitman, Sr. Walt's mother, Louisa Whitman, was a descendant of Dutch farmers. His parents were Quakers, and Quakers were more liberal in their churches and in the ways they served God. They believed in equality and democracy. These doctrines later shaped Whitman's values and are reflected in his works. He left school early, and during his early years he trained as a printer. He later worked as a teacher, and printer. After that, he held a great variety of jobs while writing and editing for several periodicals. He was not successful because his radical views made him unpopular among readers.In 1855 he published the first edition of "Leaves of Grass," which at that time consisted of only twelve poems. The first edition was composed of untitled poems. "Have you guessed you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded those earth beetles? Have you feared the future would be nothing to you?" Here, Whitman was talking about death. He was talking about the reality the will everyone's experience. His work was generally ignored, except by one significant person, Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote a letter to congratulate him, in which he offered his "greet[ings]... at the beginning of a great career." Whitman quickly published another edition of "Leaves of Grass," and added about twenty more poems to it and attached the letter from Emerson to it without Emerson's permission. Emerson was not very happy with that, but it made other significant poets and readers have a second thought, about his works. In 1860, he wrote another edition of a much larger "Leaves of Grass" containing some 156 poems (123helpme). Examples of some of the poems added to the 2nd edition are, "A Hand- Mirror," "O Me! O Life! and "Beautiful Women." In "Beautiful Women," he wrote "Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young, The young are beautiful- but the old are more beautiful than the young." This part poem reflects that Whitman appreciated beauty in women especially the beauty of older women.During the Civil War, Whitman volunteered as a nurse in military hospitals, and he also wrote articles as a correspondent for the New York Times at the same time. His volunteer work helped him get a job with the Department of the Interior, but he was fired when his boss learned that he had written the indecent poems of Leaves of Grass.Whitman had a stroke in 1873, which left him paralyzed on his left side. Whitman was nursed by Peter Doyle and Ellen O'Connor during his recovery time. The stroke destroyed his health and he was forced to give up his work. That same year, his mother died. He moved to Camden, New Jersey and moved in with his brother George and George's wife Louisa (Oliver 23). There, he continued his writing. A widow from England, Anne Gilchrist, fell in love with him because she loved his poetry and decided to move with her three children to Philadelphia. She rented an...

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