The attached is a PDF of an article by Walt Whitman in The New York Times of April 12, 1865.
Note the hints (foreshadowings) of Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” “The Western Star, in the earlier hours of the evening, has never been so large, so clear; it seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent with humanity, with us Americans.”
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.
Now while I sat in the day and look’d forth,
In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and
the farmers preparing their crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds and the
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the
voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with
its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent
—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of
Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the
hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the
To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still.
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me,
The gray-brown bird I know receiv’d us comrades three,
And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
“I will try to remain calm. I will try to concentrate my attention on the sound of the wind and the buzzing of the bees outside my window, the scent of the hoya blossom, … and the sight of the cherry trees in bloom.” — Ella Rutledge, March 30, 2020
[Whitman] is the poet of our climate, never to be replaced, unlikely ever to be matched. Only a few poets in the language have surpassed “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”: Shakespeare, Milton, perhaps one or two others. Whether even Shakespeare and Milton have achieved a more poignant pathos and a darker eloquence than Whitman’s “Lilacs,” I am not always certain. The great scene between the mad Lear and the blind Gloucester; the speeches of Satan after he has rallied his fallen legions—these epitomize the agonistic Sublime. And so does this, but with preternatural quietness:
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
[from “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” section 3]
— Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Riverhead Books, 1994), pp. 270-271
Walt Whitman. Concluded formal schooling at age eleven. Subsequently worked as an office boy, printer’s devil (apprentice), compositor (typesetter), schoolteacher, pressman, journalist, and editor. Began writing what would become Leaves of Grass in his early thirties. Published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855 when he was age 36. A remarkable ontogenesis.