[Walt Whitman, full-length portrait, standing with hand in pocket and holding hat]
From portrait by Black.
Saunders no. 2.
Specimen Days no. 125.
Title devised by Library staff.
Forms part of: Feinberg-Whitman Collection (Library of Congress).
"I CELEBRATE myself And what I assume you shall assume For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you I loafe and invite my soul I lean and loafe at my ease....observing a spear of summer grass." With these lines, an unknown poet, Walt Whitman introduced himself. In 1855, at his own expense, he published a book called Leaves of Grass. Of the 795 copies printed, almost none were sold. But in time, this small book, just 95 pages long, would alter the course of world literature. Walter Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island, to parents close to Quaker. As the American Civil War was beginning, Whitman published his poem "Beat! Beat! Drums!" as a patriotic rally call for the North. During next 20 years, with more works published, his popularity grew in America and Britain. Whitman's work breaks the boundaries of poetic form; he used unconventional images and symbols in his poetry, including rotting leaves, tufts of straw, and debris. He openly wrote about death and sexuality, including prostitution. After suffering a paralytic stroke in early 1873, Whitman moved to the home of his brother in Camden, New Jersey. Whitman died on March 26, 1892. A public viewing of his body was held at his Camden home where over one thousand people visited in three hours. Whitman's oak coffin was barely visible because of all the flowers and wreaths left for him. "America's poet... He is America." /Ezra Pound/