Tag Archives: Walt Whitman

Staten Island beach walks


Sea-cabbage; salt hay; sea-rushes; ooze–sea-ooze; gluten–sea-gluten; sea­-scum; spawn; surf; beach; salt-perfume; mud; sound of walking barefoot ankle in the edge of the water by the sea. — Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, Volume IV: Notes, edited by Edward F. Grier (New York University Press 1984), pg. 1309


photographs by Roger W. Smith


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 2023

Walt Whitman, “Brooklyn Parks”


Walt Whitman, ‘Brooklyn Parks’

Posted here (Word document above):

Walt Whitman. “BROOKLYN PARKS”

Brooklyn Daily Times, April 17, 1858

What intrigues me is Whitman’s mention of “a Park on the heights, over Montague ferry!,” whereby he refers to the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, from which there is a splendid view of Manhattan.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2023


Brooklyn Heights; photo by Roger W. Smith

Brooklyn Heights; photo by Roger W. Smith


Walt Whitman, “Philosophy of Ferries”


Walt Whitman, ‘Philosophy of Ferries’

Posted here (Word document above):

Walt Whitman “Philosophy of Ferries,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 11, 1947

IN The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman; Much of Which Has Been But Recently Discovered, with Various Early Manuscripts; Now First Published; Collected and Edited by Emory Holloway, Volume One, pp. 168-171 (Gloucester, Mass. Peter Smith, 1972)



Things haven’t changed much since Whitman’s day.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2023


photo by Roger W. Smith



See also my post

the ferry

the ferry

Walt Whitman, “Broadway”


Walt Whitman, ‘Broadway’ (2)

Posted here (Word document above):

Wat Whitman, “BROADWAY”

Life Illustrated, August 9, 1856

an unsigned article attributed to Whitman, reprinted in

New York Dissected By Walt Whitman: A Sheaf of Recently Discovered Newspaper Articles by the Author of LEAVES OF GRASS; Introduction and Notes by Emory Holloway and Ralph Adimari (New York: Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Inc. 1936), pp. 119-124



Whitman’s experiences and impressions in his pre-Civil War years are similar to my own in Manhattan jaunts. (I also love to take the ferry.) As noted by Emory Holloway and Ralph Adimari:

When Moncure D. Conway, at Emerson’s suggestion, called upon Whitman a month or so after the appearance of Leaves of Grass, in 1855, he took a walk with him through the city. “Nothing could surpass,” he says, “the blending of insouciance with active observation in his manner as we strolled along the streets”. … Whitman had been walking the streets, riding the omnibuses and crossing the ferries for many years. His memory was stored with so many such impressions that one of his early manuscripts describes his mind as a picture gallery. Perhaps it was from a desire to reconcile the contradictions in these multiform and inharmonious impressions that the poet sought escape in mystical rhapsody. The peculiar quality of Whitman’s elevated poetic mood, however, is due to the fact that instead of withdrawing his mind ascetically from experience, he sought rather to use definite concrete experiences to climb to a summit of vision which would embrace them all.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

January 2022


… that individuals matter


Why did individual soldiers matter so much to Walt Whitman? The young men whom he provided care and comfort to as a volunteer in army hospitals during the Civil War.

As persons — not just “cases”; patients needing care and. above all, attention.

They certainly did. Witness the accounts — Whitman’s own — of his regular visits to hospitals in Washington during the Civil War.

For example:

Walt Whitman

to Mr. and Mrs. S. B. Haskell, Breseport, County New York, August 10, 1863

Whitman 1


And here is an excerpt from another letter showing how much people he encountered and got to know mattered to Whitman:

Walt Whitman to Hugo Fritsch, 1863

Whitman 2



Allow me to talk about myself.

I am at a point in my life where I don’t need compliments — although, naturally, I appreciate and welcome them, store them up in my “bank” of pleasant remembrances.

But I don’t worry much about what people think of me.

I am introspective, often find fault with myself. I also have some knowledge of good points of my own that I might have once overlooked.

For instance: I think I appreciate this about Whitman — what I spoke of above — because I can see it in myself and my own behavior. Individuals I encounter in all sorts of situations in daily life are rarely negligible to me. They are almost all unique — all, a priori, interesting and valuable to me for having met them. This includes people met in what might be thought of as perfunctory encounters.

Whitman regarded it as a privilege to meet young soldiers from various places and backgrounds. The same with me with the people I encounter.

A couple of examples — trivial, except that they make my point.

Fiona, the clerk from Queens whom I engaged in conversation at a FedEx center on Madison Avenue a few months ago. (I was sending something.) She said she loved talking with me. I haven’t forgotten her. We compared notes about living in New York.

An HP help desk technician from India who answered a call recently. I found him very interesting and congenial and learned much from him about India and especially a particular interest of his: languages, including Sanskrit. As the talk progressed (during which he was working on my computer remotely), it got more and more friendly and interesting. He sent me an email after the online session:

November 4, 2022

Hello Roger,

Greetings of the day!!

This e-mail is with reference to your case ID : _____. If you have any issues please call us directly.

It was really really nice talking to you.

Have a great day!



The workers at my favorite pub: Philomena, Amy, Jemina, Yesmin, Alexa, Anniika, Bianca, Noureen, Fiona (my first waitress friend; just left).

I owe these traits and proclivities of mine to my parents. I would say that it is a matter of showing an appreciation for and a keen interest in people.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2023

Walt Whitman, “The Great Army of the Sick”

Walt Whitman, ‘The Great Army of the Sick’ – NY Times 2-26-1863


Posted here:

Walt Whitman

“The Great Army of the Sick; Military Hospitals in Washington”

The New York Times

February 26, 1863


— Roger W. Smith

   January 2023

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night


Walt Whitman

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night

VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return’d with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev’d to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten’d,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

— from Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps (1865)



The absolute simplicity and avoidance of anything “literary,” giving the poem great expressive power.

The Biblical parallelism: “Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,”


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  January 2023

‘You used to be very good to them, playing ” ‘tag’, and marbles with them.”


Some personal reminiscences from those who knew Walt Whitman personally and had ongoing contact with him informally.




“O’Connor,” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), pp. 475-477

O’Connor – Walt Whitman Encyclopedia





Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Snow-Storm



Abraham Cowley (1618-1667) was an English poet and essayist born in the City of London late in 1618. He was one of the leading English poets of the 17th century.

Stephen Pearl Andrews (1812-1886) was an American libertarian socialist, individualist anarchist, linguist, political philosopher, outspoken abolitionist and author of several books on the labor movement and individualist anarchism.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  January 2023

visiting one of Walt Whitman’s residences


photos by Roger W. Smith

99 Ryerson Street, Brooklyn

On Ryerson Street in Brooklyn. On December 24, 2019, the day before Christmas.

I walked and walked, thought I would never find Ryerson Street. No one seemed to know where the street was located. The house is in a Brooklyn neighborhood known as Clinton Hill. It is close to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Whitman and his family lived there briefly, in 1855, and were possibly still there in early 1856. But by the time two Concord intellectuals and writers, Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, visited Whitman in October 1856, the Whitman family had moved to another house in the area. (The visitors had to take the ferry from Manhattan to get to Brooklyn, which was then a suburb.)

I have posted the following articles here:


“Should Walt Whitman’s House Be Landmarked” The New York Times, December 24, 2019

‘Should Walt Whitman’s House Be Landmarked’ – NY Times 12-24-2019


selections from the diary of Bronson Alcott and the correspondence of Henry David Thoreau

‘Whitman in His Own Times’ (Alcott, Thoreau)


Lawrence Buell, “Whitman and Thoreau. Calamus no. 8 (August 1973), pp. 18-28.

Lawrence Buell, ‘Whitman and Thoreau’


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2022

Edward Everett Hale review of Leaves of Grass (1856)


Edward Everett Hale review of Leaves of Grass – North American Review, January 1856


posted here (PDF file above):

review of Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

reviewed by Edward Everett Hale

North American Review

January 1856

An excellent early review. Edward Everett Hale got Whitman – verily – as few critics at that point in time did.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   August 2022