Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass

A collection of quintessentially American poems, the seminal work of one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century. THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES: A concise introduction that gives readers important background informationA chronology of the author's life and workA timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical contextAn outline...

Title:Leaves of Grass
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Edition Language:English

Leaves of Grass Reviews

  • Selby

    Whitman used to right fake reviews under false names for Leaves of Grass and send them to publishers, newspapers, and periodicals. I love that about him. So over the top. He had love for everything. Especially himself. As for the quality of the work the words speak for themselves:

    "This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not co

    Whitman used to right fake reviews under false names for Leaves of Grass and send them to publishers, newspapers, and periodicals. I love that about him. So over the top. He had love for everything. Especially himself. As for the quality of the work the words speak for themselves:

    "This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..........."

  • Ben Wilson

    Leaves of Grass is like reading every single instant message that I and a friend of mine ever wrote to one another over the course of the last ten years. Likely way too long, too self-serving and would have shocked the general public if they cared to read it when it was written. But nestled in there are some real, true brilliant moments.

    This is after all Whitman's life work, laid bare and un-edited for the most part. What else are we to expect? He is literally singing a song of himself, which he

    Leaves of Grass is like reading every single instant message that I and a friend of mine ever wrote to one another over the course of the last ten years. Likely way too long, too self-serving and would have shocked the general public if they cared to read it when it was written. But nestled in there are some real, true brilliant moments.

    This is after all Whitman's life work, laid bare and un-edited for the most part. What else are we to expect? He is literally singing a song of himself, which he believes to be American - and

    by all accounts. He shouts it loud and strong and

    until the reader gets it. But in there in that persistance is a thing of real, American beauty - a self-made man in love with his country and the people in it. Real unhumble patriotism. To understand this in all it's ragged glory is to understand Whitman and his America.

  • Collin

    Holy shit this is self-important and tedious.

    --update: This has sat untouched on my desk all year. I can think of a hundred books I'd rather start than finish this, so I doubt I'll pick it back up unless I run out of books to read, I'm too poor to buy any more books, all my friends turn on me and refuse to loan me anything else, and all the nearby libraries are set on fire simultaneously.

  • Dan

    Alright, my rating here is very misleading. I haven't read

    . I don't even intend to read Leaves Of Grass. Not all the way through any way. It seems sort of weird to just read a big fat collection of poetry all the way through. The five star rating is for one poem, "Song of the Open Road".

    I've never really appreciated poetry. I've liked song lyrics and that's poetry, but it seemed like I needed a tune to go with it. I've liked scripture which can be pretty poetic, but it seemed I n

    Alright, my rating here is very misleading. I haven't read

    . I don't even intend to read Leaves Of Grass. Not all the way through any way. It seems sort of weird to just read a big fat collection of poetry all the way through. The five star rating is for one poem, "Song of the Open Road".

    I've never really appreciated poetry. I've liked song lyrics and that's poetry, but it seemed like I needed a tune to go with it. I've liked scripture which can be pretty poetic, but it seemed I needed religious sentiment to go with it. Over the last few years , I've been trying to correct this character flaw, and I've felt like I was improving, but I didn't feel like I was there yet.

    So, I finished

    recently and it left me feeling afraid of commitment, so I took

    to work with me, so I'd have something to read on my lunch hour without feeling obligated to finish and that might help me grow in my appreciation of poetry. I looked in the table of contents and saw "Song of the Open Road" and thought that it might appeal to me as a runner/hiker guy and read it. Appeal to me, it did. I found myself reading it over and over again and having a very positive emotional reaction. It was visceral and inexplicable, so I won't try to detail it for you, but I thought as I was reading it, "This must be what appreciating poetry feels like."

    I wanted to memorize it and quote applicable sections at apropos moments to friends and family and all that other lame stuff that people who appreciate poetry do.

    So it gets five stars for providing me with something of a break through. I think I'll go read it again.

  • Teresa

    "Adeus, minha Fantasia!

    Adeus, querida companheira, minha amada!

    Vou, mas não sei para onde vou,

    Nem qual será a minha sorte, nem se alguma vez nos voltaremos a ver,

    Por isso, adeus, minha Fantasia!

    Agora, a minha última vontade — deixa-me olhar para trás por um instante;

    Cada vez mais lento e leve o tiquetaque do relógio dentro de mim,

    Retirada, anoitecer, e em breve a surda palpitação que pára.

    Convivemos, alegrámo-nos e consolámo-nos durante muito tempo;

    Foi magnífico! — Agora separamo-nos — Adeus, mi

    "Adeus, minha Fantasia!

    Adeus, querida companheira, minha amada!

    Vou, mas não sei para onde vou,

    Nem qual será a minha sorte, nem se alguma vez nos voltaremos a ver,

    Por isso, adeus, minha Fantasia!

    Agora, a minha última vontade — deixa-me olhar para trás por um instante;

    Cada vez mais lento e leve o tiquetaque do relógio dentro de mim,

    Retirada, anoitecer, e em breve a surda palpitação que pára.

    Convivemos, alegrámo-nos e consolámo-nos durante muito tempo;

    Foi magnífico! — Agora separamo-nos — Adeus, minha Fantasia!

    Mas não me devo apressar,

    É verdade que muito convivemos, dormimos, purificámo-nos, fundimo-nos num verdadeiramente;

    Então, se temos de morrer, morramos juntos (sim, continuaremos a ser um),

    Se a algum lado temos de ir que o façamos juntos para enfrentar o que acontecer,

    Talvez sejamos mais afortunados e felizes, e aprendamos alguma coisa,

    Talvez sejas tu quem me mostra agora o caminho para os verdadeiros cantos (quem sabe?),

    Talvez sejas tu quem me faz girar a maçaneta da porta mortal — por isso, finalmente,

    Adeus, e boa viagem, minha Fantasia!"

  • Lauren Schumacher

    When

    was first published, critics applauded Whitman "only that he did not burn" the "mass of stupid filth" immediately upon completion. They primarily objected to its sensual and occasionally (rather overtly) homoerotic content. Nowadays, of course, it seems entirely too mild to raise an objection on those grounds, but man, oh man, I understand the impulse to want to turn this book into kindling.

    This weighty poetic tome has all the we

    When

    was first published, critics applauded Whitman "only that he did not burn" the "mass of stupid filth" immediately upon completion. They primarily objected to its sensual and occasionally (rather overtly) homoerotic content. Nowadays, of course, it seems entirely too mild to raise an objection on those grounds, but man, oh man, I understand the impulse to want to turn this book into kindling.

    This weighty poetic tome has all the weaknesses inherent to self-publication: unjustified overlong length, tedious repetition of images and ideas, wildly uneven quality from one poem to the next, irritating authorial tics, and a pervasive self-important focus.

    It's really impossible to document the amazing repetitions in

    short of simply handing you the book itself. It is repetitive in syntax, in word choice, in tone, in content, in message, in perspective. And the collection is inexcusably padded past any hope of delivering the forceful emotional impact that poems are so uniquely capable of.

    And man, what gives with the crappy words!? English's strongest selling point as a language is its vast, incredibly nuanced vocabulary. It's not a particularly beautiful or intuitive dictionary, but the thesaurus is stellar--we have an endless supply of synonyms at our disposal. There's really no excuse for a native English-speaking poet to resort to such dull, texture-less language. Take this brief ditty,

    :

    Guys, did you know that winds whistle? Or that ship sails are white-gray? Or that the ocean has both "larger and smaller waves?" Are you kidding me? (And yes, that's the whole poem, by the way, I didn't pull him off the stage with a cane right before he got to the good part.)

    Am I being too unfair? Let's compare with another short, nautically-themed poem from a contemporary from the same transcendental school. Here is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's sonnet

    .

    Even given the additional constraints of rhyming meter, Wadsworth (whom I'm honestly not that excited about in general) manages to deliver a concise, impactful message with an interesting scope and vocabulary. Also,

    was not padded with flabby rephrasings of the same idea in an overlong collection. The point is, Whitman was mediocre, at best, even in his own time.

    I know I'm being a bit vicious, but from six hundred pages of poetry, I gathered fewer insights than from a collection of half-a-dozen from a better poet. I have already started reading a new poetry collection, and I'm compelled to read and reread, discovering new depths, awestruck at the emotional viscera. Reading

    was, in comparison, watching a slightly interesting shade of paint dry.

    The wide-eyed transcendental awe that Whitman is famous for grates under the relentless single-minded repetition. Whitman's spirit may have been remarkable, but his language is uninspired, hobbled by a limited vocabulary and overburdened by his didactic approach to inspiration. He tries too hard to educate and persuade, and sounds like a salesmen hustling flora and fauna door-to-door. The man's never met a thing he wasn't ready to romanticize: toiling farmers, shackled slaves, dying soldiers--they are noble savages, one and all.

    His relentless optimism at the splendor of America (politically, geographically, socially--every part of it is super-duper splendid, according to Walt) displays a total unwillingness to look critically at the world he lives in, which is a tremendous failure for a poet. Page after page documents the unending beauty of the territories he'd never visited, but there are only a handful of passing acknowledgements that Americans were actively slaughtering one another over the right to own other living humans. Whitman is not being naive here, but rather deliberately myopic.

    An extremely tedious "classic" that is really nothing more than rambling sermons from an inept poet. I can see someone being charmed by his incessant enthusiasm for life, but for a pragmatist like myself, I can't stomach the lack of emotional maturity. The world has all kinds of grace and majesty and stars and perfection, but it also has human beings killing other human beings for no clear reason. A robust poet can make sense of this dilemma--Whitman is no robust poet, so he merely turns away from it.

  • Roy Lotz

    It is becoming increasingly trendy to chalk up success to practice and hard work. We have the famous 10,000 hours from Malcolm Gladwell’s

    , and a similar theme from Joshua Foer’s

    , just to name two examples. But it seems to me that some people were just born to do what they did, that no amount of practice could ever have produced something so fresh, original, new, and revolutionary.

    Take Montaigne. He invented a new genre (the essay), pioneered a free and easy pro

    It is becoming increasingly trendy to chalk up success to practice and hard work. We have the famous 10,000 hours from Malcolm Gladwell’s

    , and a similar theme from Joshua Foer’s

    , just to name two examples. But it seems to me that some people were just born to do what they did, that no amount of practice could ever have produced something so fresh, original, new, and revolutionary.

    Take Montaigne. He invented a new genre (the essay), pioneered a free and easy prose style, and popularized a down-to-earth skeptical attitude. There was no precedent to his proclamation that he would write about only himself. To be sure, he worked very hard on his essays—going over them again and again, crossing out a line here, adding one there. But it wasn’t the practicing that made him special, it was that his essays were the expression of an entirely original type of person, who effortlessly broke every rule.

    Walt Whitman is a similar case. Though free verse had precedents in the Biblical psalms, no poet had emancipated himself so completely from prosody, rhythm, and rhyme. Though deism was trendy with the Transcendentalists, Emerson’s and Thoreau’s perspectives were a far cry from Whitman’s mysticism. Not to mention that his celebration of the bodily pleasures and sexuality scandalized nearly everybody. Could 10,000 hours of anything have produced that? How do you practice to be original?

    This is all besides the point, I suppose. This poem is gorgeous. It’s so modern in its sensibilities, I almost want to say that it could have been written in the 50s or 60s; but Whitman’s reverence for nature, love, and life was so pure and raw, that no disillusioned Cold War drug fueled Beats or Hippies could have come close. There is nothing trendy in his poetry—he was a member of no movement. He was not writing in verse to 'rebel’ against anything, but to celebrate everything he saw worth celebrating.

    At his worst, Whitman is repetitive: continually rehashing ideas and imagery, and producing some uninspiring lists. But at his best, Whitman is revelatory. When the force of his original perspective is married to the force of his original style, the product is as extraordinary as it is inimitable. The words and ideas are woven around each other like a vine growing around a tree, producing a poem that lives and breathes—so freshly harvested from his mind, that even now it seems to still have dirt and roots clinging to it.

    I’m happy to see that America has produced a poet capable of upholding the democratic principle without descending into ‘just one of us plain folksiness’. And I’m glad to see that America has produced an individualist that is not peevish and immature. I’m saying “America produced," but I’m not really sure what mysterious force results in people like Whitman and Montaigne. But it sure as hell ain’t 10,000 hours.

  • Samadrita

    There's only so much rhetoric on American imperialism I can ingest and assimilate at a stretch. Later, Mr Whitman.

    (paused at 47%)

  • Lizzy

    In

    sings nature and his symbiosis with America, he sings the universe and his awareness of it all, but above all he sings the people and their quest for individuality and immortality.

    And here he includes himself with all his mysticism and spiritual illuminations. In that, it is a celebration of humanity, his country and everything in it. Some parts of his poems were so bea

    In

    sings nature and his symbiosis with America, he sings the universe and his awareness of it all, but above all he sings the people and their quest for individuality and immortality.

    And here he includes himself with all his mysticism and spiritual illuminations. In that, it is a celebration of humanity, his country and everything in it. Some parts of his poems were so beautiful it spoke to me, however not all touched me. For one I am not American, and for other, he wrote it in another time that is long gone. But there are times when he comes through more our contemporary than many other writers I read.

    I loved him for his love of the common people, for his praise of the most unlucky human beings – like slaves and prostitutes – as for his sense of justice.

    It’s an ode to equality, and for that, we cannot praise him enough. His words sometimes sounded like music in my ears. It really sang to me.

    Sometimes playful, often insightful and timeless,

    is not to be missed.

    Let’s let Whitman speak for himself:

    <<>>

    <<>>

    <<>>

    <<>>

    <<>>

    Finally, the three last superb stanzas:

    <<>>

    <<>>

    <<>>

    ___

  • Michael

    Whitman sings the song of America like no other poet I know--the outsized joy and pain, the affinity for common folk and the love of nature and the sheer overwhelming feeling of every sight and sound and industrious noise around him. "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear," he wrote. Because of this some are tempted to see Whitman as a poet of pure exuberance--like a proto-hippie or, worse, like a garrulous Hallmark card. But Whitman doesn't shy away from pain at all--he embraces it l

    Whitman sings the song of America like no other poet I know--the outsized joy and pain, the affinity for common folk and the love of nature and the sheer overwhelming feeling of every sight and sound and industrious noise around him. "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear," he wrote. Because of this some are tempted to see Whitman as a poet of pure exuberance--like a proto-hippie or, worse, like a garrulous Hallmark card. But Whitman doesn't shy away from pain at all--he embraces it like he embraces everything else--not in a way that cheapens or ignores it but in a way that feels it deeply too. He did, after all, endure the civil war (he served as a nurse in army hospitals--we might shudder to think what those were like) and wrote about the experience in his typically direct, personal way.

    Speaking of the personal, for many years I always brought an old tattered copy of Whitman with me backpacking, and whenever I had to endure a particularly awful commute, I'd listen to Whitman to calm down, to step outside myself and encounter something beautiful amid the soul-crushing traffic. Whitman has become like an old friend to me now, one I'll no doubt keep coming back to, no matter my station in life or what I'm going through.


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