The Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman

The Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman

The Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman

The Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman

Excerpt

Although Walt Whitman is popularly regarded as the pioneer democratic poet, critical opinion about him is still sharply, even angrily, divided. Whitman's celebrations of the ordinary man and his glorifications of the commonplace have provoked volumes of controversy keyed to extremes of immoderate praise and intemperate blame. Ever since Leaves of Grass was published in 1855, Whitman's work has been vehemently idealized and vituperatively condemned.

The fault does not lie entirely with the critics. It is difficult for the most detached appraiser to achieve a balance when weighing a writer whose style was one long overasis, who luxuriated in verbosity, who lived in an extravagant and overwhelming dream. There never has been a major poet who revealed himself in such grandiose self- contradictions of naïveté and shrewdness, of blatant egotism and pure devotion to an idealistic brotherhood. An individual who became his own legend, Whitman made it almost impossible for his critics to separate the man from the myth, the dynamic genius from the absurd "affetuoso," the true seer, inspired with universal vision, from the bombastic prophet manqué.

Nevertheless, the paradox must be acknowledged and the contradictions reconciled, for if Whitman is sometimes irresponsible, he is also irresistible. His essential spirit may be found in the two lines which open the authorized edition of Leaves of Grass:

One's-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.