Whitman
Walt Whitman was looked upon as the forerunner of 20th Century poetry,
praising democracy, and becoming a proclaimed poet of American democracy. He was
known as the "Son of Long Island," and he loved his country and everything
about it. (Current, Williams, Freidel- page 292-293). Whitman lived during the
time of the Civil War; a fact that increased his patriotism. Whitman was
considered one of the most important American Poets of the 19th Century.
(Encyclopedia of World Biography- page 249). He influenced the direction of 20th

Century poets such as Erza Pound, William Carlos Williams, Carlos Sandberg, and

Allen Ginsberg. Whitman praised democracy and spoke of the flesh as well as the
spirit. (Encyclopedia of Biography- page 249). He rejected the normal rhyme and
meter of poetry and wrote in free verse, relying on Native American language. In
general, Whitman's poetry is idealistic and romantic. Whitman identified
strongly with the outcasts of society. He said to one outcast, "Not till the
sun excludes you do I exclude you." (Lowen, Nancy- page 11) People hailed him
as the most authentic voice of the United States of America. Edgar Allen Poe had
said, "The vitality and variety of his life was the mere reflection of the
vitality and variety of the United States of America." Walter Whitman was born
into a family of nine children and he had a rough childhood. The Whitman family
first settled in the Huntington area by the middle of the seventeenth century.

This helped him to write two of the world's greatest literary works, "There
was a Child Went Forth" and "Song to Myself." (Lowen, Nancy- page 6).

"There was a Child Went Forth" was about his siblings and his childhood. Out
of nine children, only four survived to live to old age. He spoke of how his
siblings died and how it affected his family. Whitman had one sibling who was
insane, one who was severely retarded, one who died at infancy, one who died of
alcoholism, one who died of tuberculosis, and one who fought and almost died in
the Civil War. These things directly effected the writing of this poem. (Lowen,

Nancy- page 6). "Song to Myself" spoke of his childhood and how it directly
affected the fact that he was going to reject the norm, how he did not care
about what people thought about him, and his work. "Song of Myself,"
was considered Whitman's greatest. It was a lyric poem told through the joyful
experiences of the narrator. Sometimes the narrator was the poet himself. (Lowen,

Nancy- page 6). In other passages, "I" speaks for the human race, the
universe, or a specific character, which was dramatized. Like all Whitman's
major poems, "Song of Myself" contained symbols. For example, in the
poem he described grass as a symbol of life "the babe of vegetation,"
"the handkerchief of the Lord." Whitman praised God and nature. He
exposed his gentle nature to his fellow man, and in doing so expressed his love
of the world. This was a love he grew up with and carried with him everywhere he
went. Whitman loved Long Island and it became a major part of his works.
(Webster, Orville III- page 122). He held various jobs throughout his life. He
was a printing apprentice, journalist, editor, and school teacher. Walt Whitman
sold his first story to "The Democratic Review" shortly after leaving
his teaching job. This publication was known to pirate literature from Europe to
save money, but it also printed the works of Poe, Lowell, Whittier, Hawthorne,
as well as other well-known American lyricists. (Webster Orville III- page 123).

It was this publication which gave Whitman his first break as a professional
writer. The editor of "The Democratic Review," John L. O'Sullivan,
was so impressed with Whitman and his work, he bought at least three more
stories from Whitman that very same autumn for the magazine. He also gave

Whitman a job writing political speeches for Tammany Hall Democrats. When

Whitman turned 19, he took an apprenticeship at a local paper. Later he founded
the weekly newspaper, the Long-Islander. He wrote, printed, and delivered his
paper himself. Then, he became a school teacher. These factors would later aid
him in publishing his own work, especially his first book of poems, Leaves of

Grass in 1855. (Encyclopedia of World Biography- pages 249-250). When Whitman
compiled poems for his book, Leaves of Grass, he decided to become a
revolutionary poet. He wrote only about his love for his country. This book was
so unusual, no one would publish it; so he did it himself. (Encyclopedia of

World Biography- page 249). This