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Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess,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."
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Publication information: Book title: Poems in Their Place:The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections. Contributors: Neil Fraistat - Editor. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1986. Page number: 306.
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