Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walt Whitman Archive

Portrait of Walt Whitman by Samuel Hollyer, courtesy of the Walt Whitman Archive

Walt Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey in 1892, and spent several months in New Orleans before the Civil War, where he witnessed the horrors of slavery first hand - but all his life, the Long Island-born writer was a New Yorker through and through. He founded a weekly Long Island newspaper, edited the Brooklyn Eagle and the abolitionist journal Brooklyn Freeman, and penned, in his famous anthology Leaves of Grass, a poem about crossing the East River on the Brooklyn Ferry. An excerpt:

Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!
Gaze, loving and thirsting eyes, in the house, or street, or public assembly!
Sound out, voices of young men! loudly and musically call me by my nighest name!
Live, old life! play the part that looks back on the actor or actress!
Play the old role, the role that is great or small, according as one makes it!

In belated celebration of Whitman's birthday, which would have been May 31st, check out this collection of published works, manuscripts, photos, and a series of letters his brothers George Washington and Andrew Jackson wrote from Union Army base camps during the Civil War.

-posted by Liana Grey

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