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“As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.”
“Leaves of Grass” is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). The poems of “Leaves of Grass” are loosely connected, with each representing Whitman's celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. Walt Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.
As scholarship has made its importance to American letters more manifest, editions of the 1855 version of Whitman's masterpiece have multiplied. This one, prepared in honor of the poem's 150th anniversary, will be hard to beat. Edited by major Americanist Reynolds (Walt Whitman's America, etc.), it comes as close as possible, without being a facsimile, to reproducing Whitman's original text, which he famously self-published. The familiar litho of the young rough with open collar opens the book, and Reynold's terrific and informative afterword closes it, along with contemporary reviews (some written by Whitman himself) and Emerson's famous letter ("I greet you at the beginning of a great career..."). Those who know Whitman only through the beautiful but bloated 1892 "deathbed" edition of Leaves of Grass will find here a lean, searing celebration of self.