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The "Leaves of Grass" contained the

And go lull yourself with what you can understand and with piano-tunes;


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gist of his opinions, and some of its episodes For I lull nobody, and you will never understand equal in beauty anything he has ever written. He was in his thirty-sixth year,-close upon the age at which more than one famous poet has ended his mission. His book was eminently one with a purpose, or purposes, to which he has been consistent. First, and chiefly, to assert the "Religion of Humanity," the mystery and development of man, of woman; the sufficiency of the general plan; the inherent and equal nobility of our organs, instincts, desires; the absolute equality of men, irrespective of birth and training. Secondly, to predict a superb illustration of this development in "These States," the great republic of the present, the pure democracy of the future. Thirdly, to portray an archetypal microcosm, a man embracing in his passionate and ideal sympathy all the joys, sorrows, appetites, virtues, sins, of all men, women and children,-himself being, doing and suffering with them, and that man Walt Whitman. Finally, and to lay the groundwork for a new era in literature (in his view the most essential stimulant of progress), the "Leaves" were written in contempt of established measures, formal rhymes, stock imagery and diction, and in a most irregular kind of dithyramb, which left the hack reviewer sorely in doubt whether it was verse broken off at hap-hazard, or prose run mad. Whatever motives led to these results, we must admire the courage of a poet who thus burned his ships behind him, and plunged into a wilderness thenceforth all his own. Various passages of the book were resolutely coarse in their "naturalism," and were thought by some, who perhaps knew little of the author, to reveal his tendencies. seemed as if certain passions appeared to him more natural, certain sins more venial, than others, and that these were those which he felt to be most obstreperous in his own system,-that his creed was adjusted to his personal aptitudes. But many also found in him strength, color, love and knowledge of nature, and a capacity for lyrical outbursts, the utterance of a genuine poet. Such was the "Leaves of Grass," although the book is hard to formulate in few and scientific terms; such, at least, it was, so far as I understand its higher meaning. This analysis is made with due humility, as by one in doubt lest he also may be subject to the scornful objurgation:


• What to such as you, anyhow, such a poet as I ? -therefore leave my works,

If the successive editions of "Leaves of Grass" had the quiet sale accorded to books of verse, it did not lack admirers among radicals on the lookout for something new. Emerson, with one of his cheery impulses, wrote a glowing welcome, which soon was given to the public, and directed all eyes to the rising bard. No poet, as a person, ever came more speedily within range of view. His age, origin and habits were made known; he himself, in fastidiously wholesome and picturesque costume, was to be observed strolling up Broadway, crossing the ferries, mounting the omnibuses, wherever he could see and be seen, make studies and be studied. It was learned that he had been by turns printer, school-master, builder, editor; had written articles and poems of a harmless, customary nature, until, finding that he could not express himself to any purpose in that wise, he underwent conviction, experienced a change of thought and style, and professed a new departure in verse, dress, and way of life. Henceforward he occupied himself with loafing, thinking, writing, and making disciples and camerados. Among the young wits and writers who enjoyed his fellowship, his slow, large mold and rathe-grizzled hair procured for him the hearty title of "Old Walt." In the second year of the war his blood grew warm, and he went to Washington, whither all roads then led. His heart yearned toward the soldiery, and in the hospitals and camps he became the tenderest of nurses and the almoner of funds supplied to him by generous hands. After three years of this service, and after a sickness brought on by its exertions, he was given a place in the Interior Department. Then came that senseless act of a benighted official, who dismissed him for the immorality of the "Leaves of Grass." To Whitman it was a piece of good luck. It brought to a climax the discussion of his merits and demerits. It called out from the fervent and learned pen of O'Connor a surging, characteristic vindication, "The Good Gray Poet," in which the offending Secretary was consigned to ignominy, and by which the poet's talents, services and appearance were so fastened upon public attention that he took his place as a hoar and reverend minstrel. He then, with Lowell, Parsons, Holland, Brownell, and Mrs. Howe, had reached the


patriarchal age of forty-six. Another Cab-
inet officer, a man of taste and feeling, gave
him a new position-which he held for nine
years, and until somewhat disabled by a
paralytic affliction. Meanwhile, influențial
writers, on both sides of the ocean, skillful
in polemic criticism, had avowed allegiance
to himself and his works. In England, W.
M. Rossetti edited a selection of his poems,
and Swinburne, Dowden, Clifford, Symonds,
Buchanan, Clive, have joined in recognizing
them. In America,-besides O'Connor,-
Linton, Conway, Sanborn, the Swintons,
Benton, Marvin, the sure-eyed and poetic
Burroughs, and others, in turn have guarded
his rights or ministered to him, some of
them with a loyalty unprecedented in our
literary annals. Like Fourier, he may be
said to have his propagandists in many
lands. Making allowance for the tendency
to invest with our own attributes some ob-
ject of hero-worship, a man must be of
unusual stuff to breed this enthusiasm in
such men; and under any privations the
life is a success which has created and sus-
tained such an ideal.

The appearance of Whitman's "Centen-
nial edition," and his needs at the time,
gave occasion for an outcry concerning
American neglect and persecution of the
poet, and for a debate in which both London
and New York took part. After some dili-
gence, I find little evidence of unfriendliness
to him among the magazine-editors, to
whom our writers offer their wares. Several
of them aver that they would rather accept
than decline his contributions, and have
declined them only when unsuited to their
necessities. What magazine-writer has a
smoother experience? In a democracy the
right most freely allotted is that of every
man to secure his own income. Nor am
I aware that, with two exceptions, any
American has been able to derive a sub-
stantial revenue from poetry alone. A man
ahead of his time, or different from his time,
usually gathers little of this world's goods.
Whitman's fellow-countrymen regard him
kindly and with pride. An English poet
has declared that it is not America, but the
literary class in America, that "persecutes"
him. Who constitute such a class I know

* Dr. R. M. Bucke, superintendent of the lunatic asylum in London, Ontario, whom Whitman visited last summer, is preparing a book upon the poet's life and works. In his printed circular, requesting information, he says: "I am myself fully satisfied that Walt Whitman is one of the greatest men, if not the very greatest man, that the world has so far produced." |

not: the present writer is not one of them,
nor has he ever been. For the moment, I
am what he himself would call his "diag-
noser," nor with the intellect only, but
with the heart as well as the head. What
opposition the poet really has incurred
has done him no harm. The outcry led
to plain-speaking, and the press gave the
fullest hearing to Whitman's friends. I hope
it was of benefit, in showing that our writ-
ers were misunderstood, in stimulating his
friends to new offices in his behalf, and
especially in promoting the sale of the unique
centennial or "author's" edition of his col-
lected poems. Never was a collection more
aptly named. The two volumes bear the
material as well as the spiritual impress of
their author. Of the many portraits for
which he has sat, they give, besides the
earliest, a bold photograph of his present
self, and the striking wood-cut by his friend
Linton-that master of the engraver's craft.
Here and there are interpolated recent
poems, printed on slips, and pasted in by
the poet's own hand. The edition has an
indescribable air; one who owns it feels
that he has a portion of the author's self. It
is Whitman, His Book, and should he print
nothing more, his work is well rounded.*

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The collection embraces the revised series of "Leaves of Grass," preceded by Inscriptions," and divided by a group of "Children of Adam," on the sexual poems, conditions of life; by another group, "Calamus," on the love of comrades, and Crossing by certain pieces, of which " Brooklyn Ferry" is a good specimen, in which the aspect and occupations of the people at large, the glory of the American race, and of the dwellers in Mannahatta, are specifically chanted by this bard of New York. Then follow the "Drum-Taps," so full of lyrical fervor that Whitman may be called the chief singer of that great conflict to which the burning songs of other poets There also are had been an overture. "Marches Now the War is Over," with a few pieces that celebrate the Republican uprisings in Europe, and the first volume "Songs of Parting." The closes with second, after a general preface, opens with "Two Rivulets," parallel streams of prose

* Mr. Whitman's address is Camden, New Jersey. The two volumes are sold by him for ten dollars. If book-collectors understood the quality of this limited edition, and how valuable it must become, the poet's heart would be cheered with so many orders that not a copy would be left on his shelves.

and verse, followed by a prose essay of a Carlylese type, possibly suggested by Carlyle's strictures on America. Much of all this portion, prose and verse, is the least satisfactory of Whitman's writings, although greatly in earnest and of most import to the author. "The Centennial Songs" (1876) and the poems of 1872 (including that fine burst, "The Mystic Trumpeter") come next. Reverting to his prose "Rivulet" and the "Democratic Vistas," I do not find in these contradictory views of the present, notices of weak joints in our armor, and dreams of the future, much that doubtless has not been considered by many who have helped to guide our republic thus far, much that has not occurred to the poet's fellow-thinkers, or is not, at least, within their power to understand and amend. Neither are they expressed in that terse and sufficient language common to rare minds,-nor in a way at all comparable to the writer's surer way of expressing himself in his chosen verse. Well-written articles like his recantation of Emerson lead one to suspect that his every-day prose is distorted intentionally, otherwise I should say that, if he is a poet of high rank, he is an exception to the conceit that the truest poets write also the most genuine and noble prose; for certainly his usual style is no nearer that of healthy, selfsustained English, than his verse is to ordinary rhythm. A poet's genius may reconcile us to that which Cosmo Monkhouse terms poetry in solution, but prose in dissolution is undesirable. A continuous passage of good prose, not broken up with dashes and parentheses, and other elements of weakness, nor marred by incoherent and spasmodic expressions, is hard to find in his "Rivulets" and" Vistas." Both his prose and verse have one fault in common, that he virtually underrates the intelligence of readers. This is visible in constant repetition of his thoughts, often in forms that grow weaker, and in his intimation that we are even unwilling to comprehend ideas which are familiar to all radical thinkers in modern times.

More impressive in their vivid realism, and as evidence not to be gainsaid of Mr. Whitman's personal qualities, are the" Memoranda during the War," homely and fragmentary records of his labors among the soldiers. Three years and more were covered by these acts of self-offering, and it is well they should be commemorated. Their records constitute a picture of his life at its highest moment; they are heroic interludes

between his poems of life and those upon death. The latter, under the title, "Passage to India," express the maturest yearning of his soul. Chastened by illness and wise through experience, the singer whose pulses have beaten with life's full tide now muses upon Death,-the universal blessing. With lofty faith and imagining he confronts the unknown. To one so watchful of his own individuality, any creed that involves a merger of it is monstrous and impossible. He bids his soul voyage through death's portals, sure to find

"The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted."

He is at the farthest remove from our modish Buddhism, nor can any nirvana satisfy his demands. In this section his song is on a high key, and less reduced than elsewhere by untimely commonplace. Here are the pieces inspired by the tragic death of Lincoln. The burial hymn, "When Lilacs last," etc., is entitled to the repute in which it is affectionately held. The theme is handled in an indirect, melodious, pathetic manner, and I think this poem and Lowell's "Commemoration Ode," each in its own way, the most notable elegies resulting from the war and its episodes. Whitman's is exquisitely idyllic, Lowell's the more heroic and intellectual. Even the "Genius of These States" might stoop for an instant to hear the Cambridge scholar, and I can yield the "Burial Hymn" no truer homage than to associate it with his Ode.

A" Poem of Joys" makes an artistic contrast with these death-carols, and a group of "Sea-shore Memories," with their types and music of the infinite, add to the climacteric effect of this division. Unable here to cite passages from Whitman, I can at least direct the reader how to get at his real capabilities. For his original mood, and something of his color, imagination, hold upon nature, lyric power, turn then to the broad harmonies of the "Sea-shore Memories"; to "Lincoln's Burial Hymn," and the shorter poems beyond it; to "The Mystic Trumpeter," and "The Wound-Dresser "; and then, after reading the sixth section of the poem, "Walt Whitman,"

"A child said, 'What is the grass?'" find the two hundred and sixth paragraph,

"I understand the large hearts of heroes," and read to the end of the frigate-fight. These passages are a fair introduction to the

poet, and you will go with him farther, until checked by some repulsive exhibition, or wearied by pages cheap in wisdom and invective or intolerably dull. Often where Often where he utters truths, it is with an effort to give offense, or with expressions of contempt for their recipient that well might make even the truth offensive. A man does not care to be driven with blows and hard names, even to a feast, nor to have the host brag too much of the entertainment.


HERE we may as well consider a trait of Mr. Whitman's early work that most of all has brought it under censure. I refer to the blunt and open manner in which the consummate processes of nature, the acts of procreation and reproduction, with all that appertain to them, are made the theme or illustration of various poems, notably of those with the title "Children of Adam." Landor says of a poet that, "on the remark of a learned man that irregularity is no indication of genius, he began to lose ground rapidly, when on a sudden he cried out in the Haymarket, There is no God.' It was then rumored more generally and more gravely that he had something in him.

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'Say what you will,' once whispered a friend of mine, there are things in him strong as poison, and original as sin.'" But those who looked upon Whitman's sexuality as a shrewd advertisement, justly might be advised to let him reap the full benefit of it, since, if he had no more sincere basis, it would receive the earlier judgment-and ere long be "outlawed of art." This has not been its fate, and therefore it must have had something of conviction to sustain it. Nevertheless, it made the public distrustful of this poet, and did much to confine his volumes to the libraries of the select few. Prurient modesty often is a sign that people are conscious of personal defects; but Whitman's physical excursions are of a kind which even Thoreau, refreshed as he was by the new poet, found it hard to keep pace with. The fault was not that he discussed matters which others timidly evade, but that he did not do it in a clean way,-that he was too anatomical and malodorous withal; furthermore, that in this department he showed excessive interest, and applied its imagery to other departments, as if with a special purpose to lug it in. His pictures sometimes were so realistic, his speech so free, as to excite the hue and cry of indecent

exposure; the display of things natural, indeed, but which we think it unnatural to exhibit on the highway, or in the sittingroom, or anywhere except their wonted places of consignment.

On the poet's side it is urged that the ground of this exposure was, that thus only could his reform be consistent; that it was necessary to celebrate the body with special unction, since, with respect to the physical basis of life, our social weakness and hypocrísy are most extreme. Not only should the generative functions be proclaimed, but, also, -to show that "there is in nature nothing mean or base," the side of our life which is hidden, because it is of the earth, earthy, should be plainly recognized in these poems; and thus, out of rankness and coarseness, a new virility be bred, an impotent and squeamish race at last be made whole.

Entering upon this field of dispute, what I have to say-in declaring that Whitman mistakes the aim of the radical artist or poet-is perhaps different from the criticism to which he has been subjected. Let us test him solely by his own rules. Doing this, we presuppose his honesty of purpose, otherwise his objectionable phrases and imagery would be outlawed, not only of art but of criticism. Assume, then, first, that they were composed as a fearless avowal of the instincts and conditions which pertain to him in common with the race which he typifies; secondly, that he deems such a presentation essential to his revolt against the artifice of current life and sentiment, and makes it in loyal reliance upon the excellence, the truth of nature. To judge him in conformity with these ideas lessens our estimate of his genius. Genius is greatly consistent when most audacious. Its instinct will not violate nature's logic, even by chance, and it is something like obtuseness that does so upon a theory.

In Mr. Whitman's sight, that alone is to be condemned which is against nature, yet, in his mode of allegiance, he violates her canons. For, if there is nothing in her which is mean or base, there is much that is ugly and disagreeable. If not so in itself (and on the question of absolute beauty I accept his own ruling, "that whatever tastes sweet to the most perfect person, that is finally right"), if not ugly in itself, it seems so to the conscious spirit of our intelligence. Even Mother Earth takes note of this, and resolves, or disguises and beautifies, what is repulsive upon her surface. It is well said that an artist shows inferiority by placing

the true, the beautiful, or the good above its associates. Nature is strong and rank, but not externally so. She, too, has her sweet and sacred sophistries, and the delight of Art is to heighten her beguilement, and, far from making her ranker than she is, to portray what she might be in ideal combinations. Nature, I say, covers her slime, her muck, her ruins, with garments that to us are beautiful. She conceals the skeleton, the frame-work, the intestinal thick of life, and makes fair the outside of things. Her servitors swiftly hide or transform the fermenting, the excrementitious, and the higher animals possess her instinct. Whitman fails to perceive that she respects certain decencies, that what we call decency is grounded in her law. An artist should not elect to paint the part of her to which Churchill rashly avowed that Hogarth's pencil was devoted. There is a book—" L'Affaire Clémenceau"-in which a Frenchman's regard for the lamp of beauty, and his indifference to that of goodness, are curiously illustrated. But Dumas points out, in the rebuke given by a sculptor to a pupil who mistakenly elevates the arm of his first model, a beautiful girl, that the Underside of things should be avoided in art, since Nature, not meaning it to be shown, often deprives it of beauty. Finally, Mr. Whitman sins against his mistress in questioning the instinct we derive from her, one which of all is most elevating to poetry, and which is the basis of sensations that lead childhood on, that fill youth with rapture, impress with longing all human kind, and make up, impalpable as they are, half the preciousness of life. He draws away the final veil. It is not squeamishness that leaves something to the imagination, that hints at guerdons still unknown. The law of suggestion, of halfconcealment, determines the choicest effects, and is the surest road to truth. Grecian as Mr. Whitman may be, the Greeks better understood this matter, as scores of illustrations, like that of the attitude of the Hermaphroditus in the Louvre, show. A poet violates nature's charm of feeling in robbing love, and even intrigue, of their esoteric quality. No human appetites need be pruriently ignored, but coarsely analyzed they fall below humanity. He even takes away the sweetness and pleasantness of stolen waters and secret bread. Furto cuncta magis bella. Recalling the term "over-soul," the reader insensibly accuses our poet of an over-bodiness. The mock-modesty and effeminacy of our falser tendencies in art

should be chastised, but he misses the true corrective. Delicacy is not impotence, nor rankness the sure mark of virility. The model workman is both fine and strong. Where Mr. Whitman sees nothing but the law of procreation, poetry dwells upon the union of souls, devotion unto death, joys greater for their privacy, things of more worth because whispered between the twilights. It is absolutely true that the design of sexuality is the propagation of species. But the delight of lovers who now inherit the earth is no less a natural right, and those children often are the finest that were begot without thought of offspring. There are other lights in which a dear one may be regarded than as the future mother of men, and these-with their present hour of joy— are unjustly subordinated in the "Leaves of Grass.' Marked as the failure of this pseudo-naturalism has been hitherto, even thus will it continue,-so long as savages have instincts of modesty, so long as we draw and dream of the forms and faces, not the internal substance and mechanism, of those we hold most dear,-so long as the ivy trails over the ruin, the southern jessamine covers the blasted pine, the moss hides the festering swamp,- -so long as our spirits seek the spirit of all things; and thus long shall art and poesy, while calling every truth of science to their aid, rely on something else than the processes of science for the attainment of their exquisite results.

From the tenor of Mr. Whitman's later works, I sometimes have thought him halfinclined to see in what respect his effort toward a perfect naturalism was misdirected. In any case, there would be no inconsistency in a further modification of his early pieces,

in the rejection of certain passages and words, which, by the law of strangeness, are more conspicuous than ten times their amount of common phraseology, and grow upon the reader until they seem to pervade the whole volume. The examples of Lucretius, Rabelais, and other masters, who wrote in other ages and conditions, and for their own purposes, have little analogy. It well may be that our poet has more claim to a wide reading in England than here, since his English editor, without asking consent, omitted entirely every poem "which could with tolerable fairness be deemed offensive." Without going so far, and with no falseness to himself, Mr. Whitman might re-edit his home-editions in such wise that they would not be counted wholly among those books which are meat for strong men, but would

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