These sites may be of interest to the general reader.
There is much already posted or under development on my Whitman site that draws upon Whitman scholarship and biographical materials, often rare. Therefore, the site will be of value to scholars. There is also much that will provide enjoyable reading for the non-scholar who either knows Whitman already or would enjoy getting to know his works better. The foregoing comment applies in general to my sites. I try to be readable and interesting and also, where appropriate, to draw upon my extensive reading and research.
contains observations about the craft of writing and principles of rhetoric, derived from my professional experience and study, reading, and training. It is potentially of value and interest to anyone who appreciates good writing.
Of interest may be the way in which I draw upon my extensive reading to illuminate my observations. For example, current journalism (I read three or four newspapers daily) and American and world literature. Current issues related to language and usage in a political contest are of particular interest to me.
— Roger W. Smith
I thought of something to add which may sound boastful. I have made good use of my study of languages – namely, French, Spanish, Latin, and Russian; and some German — instruction in which in high school and various universities I am very grateful for. This has informed my knowledge of literature and made possible much scholarship; and one will find in a few of my posts my own translations and readings and sources in other languages. For example, there are posts drawing upon works in other languages, and posts in which I refer to passages from literature both in the original and English translation. I think this adds to the potential interest as well as the value of my work to a broad audience of readers.
Thanks in old age—thanks ere I go,
For health, the midday sun, the impalpable air—for life, mere
For precious ever-lingering memories, (of you my mother dear
—you, father—you, brothers, sisters, friends,)
For all my days—not those of peace alone—the days of war the
For gentle words, caresses, gifts from foreign lands,
For shelter, wine and meat—for sweet appreciation,
(You distant, dim unknown—or young or old—countless, unspecified, readers belov’d,
We never met, and ne’er shall meet—and yet our souls embrace,
long, close and long;)
For beings, groups, love, deeds, words, books—for colors, forms,
For all the brave strong men—devoted, hardy men—who’ve forward sprung in freedom’s help, all years, all lands,
For braver, stronger, more devoted men—(a special laurel ere I
go, to life’s war’s chosen ones,
The cannoneers of song and thought—the great artillerists—the
foremost leaders, captains of the soul:)
As soldier from an ended war return’d—As traveler out of
myriads, to the long procession retrospective,
Thanks—joyful thanks!—a soldier’s, traveler’s thanks.
Her words struck me. It may seem obvious. But my friend, their sister, puts it so well. I can hear Walt Whitman saying the same thing.
We mourn the dead. We were blessed to have had them. (I think of my parents, and so many others.)
Yes, existence in the here and now matters. But just as our life, everyone’s, our existence, is a miracle — people on earth — so was the existence of those no longer living: that they did live; and, in the case of our loved ones and friends, were part of our existence.
James Redpath (1833–1891) was the author of The Public Life of Capt. John Brown, a correspondent for the New York Tribune during the war, the originator of the “Lyceum” lectures, and editor of the North America Review, beginning in 1886. He met Walt Whitman in Boston in 1860 and remained an enthusiastic admirer.
One of the most beloved and tender hearted of the visitors at the hospitals in Washington, is Walt. Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass. However his “barbaric yawp” may sound over other roofs, it sends sweet music into the sick wards of the Capital. A gentleman who accompanied him on several of his visits, relates that his coming was greeted by the soldiers unvarying pleasure, and that he soothed the homesick boys so often seen there, with a tenderness that no woman could excel. His friends say that he cured one or two young soldiers who were dying of homesickness, by his sympathy and loving-kindness. Dying of homesickness is no figure of speech, but a reality of weekly occurrence in our army. To such invalids the religious tract, or the mechanical consolations of theology, give no relief; not musty manna from the church wilderness, but living waters of sympathy from the warm heart of man who loves them is what they need to save them. And this they get from the rough singer of Brooklyn. Walt. like other poets, is not excessively rich, and therefore may not stay in Washington much longer; but as long as he can afford to remain he means to keep at his self-elected and unpaid post, doing good to the sick and wounded. What a pity that when so many thousands of dollars are spent to but little purpose for this work that a hundred or two could not be devoted to retain this efficient volunteer.
Richard J. Hinton (1830–1901) was born in London and came to the US in 1851. He trained as a printer, and, like James Redpath, went to Kansas and joined John Brown’s militant group of abolitionists.
Hinton was the author of Hand-book to Kansas Territory and the Rocky Mountains’ Gold Region (1859). Later he wrote Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas (1865) and John Brown and His Men (1894). Apparently, Hinton had suggested that Thayer & Eldridge print Leaves of Grass.
Hinton served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865, and saw Whitman while lying wounded in a hospital, a scene which he described in the Cincinnati Commercial on August 26, 1871:
When this old heathen [Walt Whitman] came and gave me a pipe and tobacco, it was “about the most joyous moment of my life …. There were plenty of [other visitors] I assure you. The little bay at the head of my cot was full of tracts and testaments, and every Sunday there were half a dozen old roosters who would come into my ward and preach and pray and sing to us, while we were swearing to ourselves all the time, and wishing the blamed fools would go away. Walt Whitman’s funny stories, and his pipes and tobacco were worth more than all the preachers and tracts in Christendom. A wounded soldier don’t like to be reminded of his God more than twenty times a day. Walt Whitman didn’t bring any tracts or Bibles; he didn’t ask if you loved the Lord, and didn’t seem to care whether you did or not.
— H.J. R. [Richard Hinton], “A Reminiscence,” Cincinnati Commercial, August 26, 1871.
YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair,
mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d
wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of
The tables of population and products—I would sing of
your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some
fill’d with immigrants, some from the isthmus
with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward
comes would I welcome give;
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you
from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you
passed with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with
I know not why, but I loved you…(and so go forth
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these
lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she
swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my
bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small
craft, I forget not to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced, out of the north,
flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and
clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearth-
ly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from
them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good!
year of forebodings! year of the youth I love!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo!
even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone,
what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?
Herman Melville, “The Portent”
Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.
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
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)
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.
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
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.