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Walter Whitman Essay

1878 words - 8 pages

All Alone
     Walter Whitman was an American poet of the 1800’s.
Walt was arguably one of America’s influential and
innovative poets of his time. Whitman began work as a
printer and journalist in the New York City area. He wrote
articles on politics, civics, and the arts. During the
Civil War, Whitman was a volunteer assistant in the military
hospitals in Washington, D.C. After the war, he worked in
several government departments until he suffered a stroke in
1873. He spent the rest of his life in Camden, N.J., where
he continues to write poems and articles. Leaves of Grass,
a book of poems Whitman began in 1848 was so unusual at the
time that no publisher would publish it. In 1855, he
published it himself. Between 1855 and his death, Whitman
published several revised and enlarged editions of his book.
Walt sent a copy of the book to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and
Ralph would send the poet an enthusiastic letter which he
hailed him “at the beginning of a great career”(Whitman
732). Walt believed that Leaves of Grass had grown with his
own intellectual development. Calamus, a section of poems
in Leaves of Grass is a section talking about love and
friendship. Poems in Calamus have been put in and taken out
through the years with the revisions of the book. Two poems
that can be found in Calamus today are “I Saw in Louisiana a
Live-Oak Growing” and “To a Stranger.” These two poems have
not been Calamus together since the beginning of the book,
but now they are together and very similar.
     Since love and friendship are two major aspects that
Whitman was looking for in life. He wrote many poems on
those topics alone. Calamus is group of poems that explain
love and friendship. “I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak
Growing” and “To a Stranger” are two poems that explain his
loneliness and his wanting of a companion. Whitman uses
people and objects to symbolize his thoughts and feelings.
     Calamus is a series of letters written during the years
1868 to 1880 by Whitman to a young Civil War companion,
Peter Doyle, the unsophisticated Washington horsecar
conductor. The letters have been published under the
appropriate title Calamus, as they constitute a record of
precisely the kind of relationship Whitman meant to describe
by that title. “ The terms of endearment Whitman uses in
these letters are lavish and suggest metaphorically the
character of the emotion motivating his attachment” (Allen
25). It is difficult to challenge the purity and
spirituality of the feelings Whitman and Doyle had for each
other. Many cant figure out what was between them. “There
can be no doubt that these feelings transcend those usual to
friends or companions of the same sex” (Allen 25). Whitman
was a homosexual and many of his poems relate to manly
love. “To the serious reader of Calamus, the ‘manly love’
that recurs both as a term and as an idea is of such...

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