Leaves Of Grass By Walt Whitman

In the twentieth century, the name Walt Whitman has been synonymous with poetry.

Whitman’s most celebrated work, Leaves of Grass, was the only book he ever
wrote, and he took a lifetime to write it. A large assortment of poems, it is
one of the most widely criticized works in literature, and one of the most loved
works as well. Whitman was unmarried and childless, and it has been noted that

Leaves of Grass consumed him greatly; James E. Miller Jr. writes: "...he
guided his poetic offspring through an uncertain, hesitant childhood, a lusty
young manhood, and a serene old age...it is difficult to write the life of

Whitman without writing instead of the life and times of his book...Whitman was
the kind of parent who lives his life through his child." (Miller 15) The"poetic offspring" that Miller writes of is of course Leaves of Grass.

Whitman poured his soul into the work, as he questioned himself and observed his
demeanor through his writing. He "fathered" the tome, as after its initial
publishing Whitman went on to release revision after revision as time
progressed. Miller goes on to reflect on Whitman’s methods, as he tells the
reader of Whitman’s curiosity towards life, particularly curious about his own
meaning in the world in which he lived. "Like any individual of depth and
complexity, Whitman was continuously curious about who he was...(he had) a lusty
enthusiasm, a hearty relish for life lived at all times to its fullest
intensity." (Miller 17) The life Whitman lived "to its fullest intensity"
started in West Hills, Long Island, May 31, 1819. He was one of nine children to

Walter and Louisa Whitman, his father a farmer and his mother a devout Quaker.

Quakerism was the only religious inheritance the Perez 2 family passed on to

Walt, and, as Miller notes, could also be seen later in his famous"sea-poem". "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, Out of the
mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle, Out of the Ninth-month midnight...

Passage to more than India! Of secret of the earth and sky! Of you o waters of
the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!... O day and night, passage to you!’
(Whitman 180-294) ...His use of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ in his poetry, his
reference to the months by their sequential number (‘ninth month’ for

September), and his instinctive adoption of the inner light—all of these Walt
could trace back to his Quaker background." (Miller 17) This Quakerism also
contributed to the style of Leaves, told with certain closeness and a certain
emphasis paralleling that of a preacher. Miller comments on this style: "His
was a day of evangelism and oratory. As a child he was no doubt frequently
exposed to both. The passionate intimacy and pleading of many lines in Leaves of

Grass could...have been used by an itinerant preacher..." (Miller 43) Aside
from his Quaker traces, Leaves of Grass has been criticized as being an
extension of Whitman’s life. Just as Miller described the work as Whitman’s
child, John Kinnaird comments on the great level of importance at which Whitman
held his masterpiece: "...Leaves of Grass suggests so much of the original
existential Whitman that criticism must continue to recover and understand,
particularly since this is the first poet who ever insisted that his book was in
reality no book." (Kinnaird 24) Kinnaird reinforces the criticism of Miller

Jr. as he emphasizes the autobiographical and introspective nature of Leaves. It
seems that Whitman used this work as a release, and Perez 3 had a marvelous
interpretation of life in general. He also had a unique estimation of poetry
itself. In his introduction to Leaves of Grass he writes: "The power to
destroy or remold, is freely used by him (the greatest poet) but never the power
of attack. What is past is past. If he does not expose superior models and prove
himself by every step he takes he is not what is wanted." (Whitman 8) The
introduction from which the passage was taken is one of great length, with
elaborative and expressive sections, in which Whitman further explains the muse
behind his book, the "child" he conjured up at the time, as he was without
any family of his own. James A. Wright comments on the introduction and his
poetic brilliance: "Whitman’s poetry has delicacy of music, of diction, and
of form...I mean it to suggest powers of restraint, clarity, and wholeness, all
of which taken together embody that deep spiritual inwardness...which I take to
be the most beautiful power of Whitman’s poetry...He knows that the past
exists, and