Leaves of Grass

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Poems by Whitman, the first edition of which (1855) contained 12 poems, including those later entitled “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “There Was a Child Went Forth”. The first edition was anonymous and had a preface, later omitted, in which the author declares that the ideal poet must be a complete lover of the universe, draw his materials from nature, as a seer reveal the cosmic plan which harmoniously unites past, present, and future, be commensurate with his nation, and in America serve as representative of the common people, differing from them only in his superior vision. He is to discover what is permanent in flux, explain its development, and be a realist in his art. His style is to be simple and natural, without such ornamentation as conventional rhyme or meter, since it must have an organic growth like that of a perfect animal or tree, in which each part is in proportion and harmonious with the whole.

The second edition (1856) contained 33 poems, including “Salut au Monde,” “By Blue Ontario's Shore,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Spontaneous Me,” and “Song of the Broad-Axe,” as well as an overblown reply to the author's “dear Friend and Master,” Emerson, in acknowledgment of a laudatory letter which is reprinted.

The third edition (1860) was enlarged to 456 pages, containing 122 new poems, including “Starting from Paumanok” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and two new sections, “Calamus” and “Children of Adam”. The latter contains “Facing West from California's Shores” and “Once I Pass'd Through a Populous City”.

The fourth edition (1867) reprints, in the copies that came last from the press, those poems published as Drum-Taps (1865) and Sequel to Drum-Taps (1865–66), including the poems on the death of Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Door Yard Bloom'd” and “O Captain! My Captain!”; the statement of religion, “Chanting the Square Deific”; and “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” and “One's-Self I Sing”.

The fifth edition (1871) was a reprint, with some copies having as annexes “After All Not To Create Only,” published separately as an ode for the American Institute; and “Passage to India”.

The sixth edition (1876), known as the Author's or Centennial Edition, was in two volumes, the first a reprint of the 1871 edition without the annexes, and the second entitled Two Rivulets, containing the annexes to the 1871 edition and other poems and prose. This edition contained a new preface, not later retained, expounding the plan and purpose of the poems.

The seventh edition (1881–82), containing 20 new poems and organizing all poems in groups that represent his final order, was first published in Boston, but, because of official protests against asserted indecency, was withdrawn and reissued by a Philadelphia publisher.

The eighth edition (1889), a special pocket edition, reprinted the poems of November Boughs (1888) as “Sands at Seventy,” and, as epilogue, the prose preface of that book, “A Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads”

The final edition under the author's supervision (1891–92) included “Old Age Echoes,” as well as two annexes, “Good-Bye, My Fancy” (separately issued, 1891) and “A Backward Glance o'er Travel'd Roads”.


Subjects: Bibliography.

Reference entries

Walt Whitman (1819—1892) American poet

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