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the almost tropical sun, or sallying forth into the streets to mingle with strange companions-from the lodging-house luminary and the omnibus driver, down to the scowling rowdy of the wharf bars. Having written his first book, "Leaves of Grass," he set it up with his own hands, in a printing-office in Brooklyn. Some of our readers may dimly remember how the work was briefly noticed by contemporary English reviews, in a way to leave the impression that the writer was a wild maniac, with morbid developments in the region of the os pelvis. On the outbreak of the great rebellion, he followed in the rear of the great armies, distinguishing himself by unremitting attention to the wounded in the Ambulance Department, until, on receiving a clerkship in the Department of the Interior, he removed to Washington. Here, to the great scandal of American virtue, he continued to vagabondize as before, but without neglecting his official duties. At the street corner, at the drinking-bar, in the slums, in the hospital wards, the tall figure of Walt Whitman was encountered daily by the citizens of the capital. He knew everybody, from the President down to the crossing-sweeper.
“Well," said Abraham Lincoln, watching him as he stalked by, "he looks like a man.”
Latterly, his loafing propensities appear to have grown too strong for American tolerance, and he was ejected from his clerkship, on the pretext that he had written "indecent verses," and was a "free lover." His admirers, indignant to a man at this treatment, have accumulated protest upon protest, enumerating numberless instances of his personal goodness and self-denial, and laying powerful emphasis on certain deeds which, if truly chronicled, evince a width of sympathy and a private influence unparalleled, perhaps, in contemporary history. With all this personal business we have no concern. His admirers move for a new trial on the evidence of his written works, and to that evidence we must proceed.
In about ten thousand lines of unrhymed verse, very Biblical in form, and showing indeed on every page the traces of Biblical influence, Walt Whitman professes to sow the first seeds of an indigenous literature, by putting in music the spiritual and fleshly yearnings of the cosmical man, and, more particularly, indicating the great elements which distinguish American freedom from the fabrics erected by European politicians. Starting from Paumanok, where he was born, be takes mankind in review, and sees everywhere but one wondrous life-the movement of the great masses, seeking incessantly under the
sun for guarantees of personal liberty. He respects no particular crced, admits no specific morality prescribed by the civil law, but affirms in round terms the universal equality of men, subject to the action of particular revolutions, and guided en masse by the identity of particular leaders. The whole introduction is a reverie on the destiny of nations, with an undertone of forethought on the American future, which is to contain the surest and final triumph of the democratical man. A new race is to arise, dominating previous ones, and grander far, with new contests, new politics, new literatures and religions, new.. inventions and arts. But how dominating? By the perfect recognition 10 of individual equality, by the recognition of the personal responsibility and spiritual significance of each being, by the abrogation of distinetions such as set barriers in the way of perfect private action-action responsible only to the being of whom it is a consequence, and inevi-, tably controlled, if diabolic, by the combined action of masses..
Briefly, Walt Whitman sees in the American future the grandest realization of centuries of idealism--equable distribution of property, luminous enlargement of the spiritual horizon, perfect exercise of all the functions; no apathy, no prudery, no shame, none of that worst absenteeism wherein the soul deserts its proper and ample physical sphere, and sallies out into the regions of the impossible and the unknown. Very finely, indeed, does the writer set forth the divine functions of the body-the dignity and the righteousness of a habitation existing only on the condition of personal exertion; and faintly, but truly, does he suggest how from that personal exertion issues spiritu ality, fashioning literatures, dreaming religions, and perfecting arts. "I will make," he exclaims, "the poems of materials, for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems; and I will make the poems of my body and of mortality: for I think I shall then supply myself with the poems of my soul and of immortality."
This, we hear the reader exclaim, is rank Materialism; and, using the word in its big sense, Materialism it doubtless is. We shall observe, further on, in what consists the peculiar value of the present manifestation. In the meantime, we must continue our survey of the work.
Having broadly premised, describing the great movements of masses, Walt Whitman proceeds, in a separate "poem" or "book," to select a meriber of the great democracy, representing typically the privileges, the immunities, the conditions, and the functions of all the rest. He cannot, he believes, choose a better example than himself so he calls this poem "Walt Whitman." He is for the time being.
and for poetical purposes, the cosmical Man, an entity, a representative of the great forces.* He describes the delight of his own physical being, the pleasure of the senses, the countless sensations through which he communicates with the material universe. All, he says, is sweet-smell, taste, thought, the play of his limbs, the fantasies of his mind; every attribute is welcome, and he is ashamed of none. He is not afraid of death; he is content to change, if it be the nature of things that he should change, but it is certain that he cannot perish. He pictures the pageant of life in the country and in cities; all is a fine panorama, wherein mountains and valleys, nations and religions, : genre, pictures and gleams of sunlight, babes on the breast and dead men in shrouds, pyramids and brothels, deserts and populated streets, sweep wonderfully by him. To all those things he is bound:---wherever they force him, he is not wholly a free. agent; but on one point he is very clear-that, so far as he is concerned, he is the most important thing of all. He has work to do; life is not merely a suck or a sell; nay, the whole business of ages has gone on with one object only-that he, the democrat, Walt Whitman, might have work to do. In these very strange passages, he proclaims the magnitude of the preparations for his private action:
"Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; How is it I extract strength from the beef I cat?
What is a man, anyhow? What am I? What are you?
All I mark as my own, you shall offset it with your own,
I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums, and the ground but wallow and filth;
That life is a suck and a sell, and nothing remains at the end but threadbare crape, and tears.
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids-conformity goes to the forth-removed;
I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out....
Why should I pray? Why should I venerate and be ceremonious?
Having pried through the strata, analysed to a hair, counsel'd with doctors, and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
* Let it be understood, here and elsewhere, that we shall attach our own sig. nificance to passages in themselves sufficiently mystical. We may misrepresent this writer; but, apart from the present constructions, he is to us unintelligible.
In all people I see myself-none more, and not one a barleycorn less;
And I know I am solid and sound;
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless;
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by the carpenter's compass;
I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.
I know I am august;
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself, or be understood;
I sce that the elementary laws never apologize;
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)
I exist as I am- that is enough;
If no other in the world be aware, I sit content;
And if each and all be aware, I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself;
And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenon'd and mortis'd in granite;
I laugh at what you call dissolution;
And I know the amplitude of time.
I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I am an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs;
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps;
All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me;
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing-I know I was even there;
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,
Long I was hugg'd close-long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen ;
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings;
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother, generations guided me;
For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths, and deposited it with care
It is impossible in an extract to convey an idea of the mystic and coarse, yet living, force which pervades the 66 called poem Walt Whitman." We have chosen an extract where the utterance is unusually clear and vivid. But more extraordinary, in their strong sympathy, are the portions describing the occupations of men. In a few vivid touches we have striking pictures; the writer shifts his identity like Proteus, but breathes the same deep undertone in every shape. He can transfer himself into any personality, however base. "I am the man-I suffered-I was there." He cares for no man's pride. He holds no man unclean.
And afterwards, in the poem called “Children of Adam," he proceeds to particularize the privileges of flesh, and to assert that in his own personal living body there is no uncleanness. He sees that the beasts are not ashamed; why, therefore, should he be ashamed? Then comes passage after passage of daring animalism; the functions of the body are unhesitatingly described, and the man asserts that the basest of them is glorious. All the stuff which offended American virtue is to be found here. It is very coarse, but, as we shall see, very important. It is never, however, inhuman; indeed, it is strongly masculine-unsicklied by Lesbian bestialities and Petronian abominations. It simply chronicles acts and functions which, however unfit for art, are natural, sane, and perfectly pure. We shall attempt to show further on that Walt Whitman is not an artist at all, not a poet, properly so called; and that this grossness, offensive in itself, is highly significant-an essential part of very imperfect work. The general question of literary immorality need not be introduced at all. No one is likely to read the book who is not intelligently chaste, or who is not familiar with numberless authors offensive to prudes-Lucretius, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Byron, among poets; Tacitus, Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, Swedenborg, among prose thinkers.
The remainder of "Leaves of Grass" is occupied with poems of democracy, and general monotonous prophecies. There is nothing more which it would serve our present purpose to describe in detail, or to interpret. The typical man continues his cry, encouraging all men, on the open road, in the light of day, in the region of dreams. All is right with the world, he thinks. For religion he advises, "Reverenco