Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections

By Neil Fraistat | Go to book overview

Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a miner in California,
Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink from the spring,
Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,
Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and happy,
Aware of the fresh free giver, the flowing Missouri, aware of mighty Niagara,
Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute and strong-breasted bull,
Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars, rain, snow, my amaze,
Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight of the mountain-hawk,
And heard at dawn the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush from the swamp-cedars,
Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World. 17

"Biography soars [indeed] into mythology" in these lines. And we might adopt Borges's descriptive phrase as a summary definition of that new American form, the lyric-epic, which was the legacy Whitman left for American "poets to come"--as they too "strike up for a New World."


NOTES
1.
Howard Moss, "A Candidate for the Future," The New Yorker, 14 Sept. 1981, 184.
2.
Walt Whitman, Complete Poetry and Prose, ed. James E. Miller, Jr. ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1959), p. 449. Further quotations from Whitman will be from this edition and cited parenthetically in the text.
3.
Edgar Allan Poe, Literary Criticism of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Robert L. Hough ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), pp. 22-23.
4.
Ibid., p. 34.
5.
Terry Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), p. 24.
6.
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. James Strachey ( New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1961), pp. 49-50.
7.
Ezra Pound, "Patria Mia," in Selected Prose: 1909-1965, ed. William Cookson ( New York: New Directions, 1973), p. 124.
8.
Donald Davie, Review of John Berryman, The Freedom of the Poet, The New York Times Book Review, 25 April 1976, p. 4.

-306-

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