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Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, the second of nine children. His family soon moved to Brooklyn, where he attended school for a few years. Young Whitman took to reading at an early age. By 1830 his formal education was over, and for the next five years he learned the printing trade.
Not much is known of Whitman's literary activities that can account for his sudden transformation (change) from journalist and hack writer into revolutionary poet. The first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) opened with a rather casual portrait of Whitman, the self-professed "poet of the people," dressed in workman's clothes.
Of the twelve poems (the titles were added later), "Song of Myself," "The Sleepers," "There Was a Child Went Forth," and "I Sing the Body Electric" are the best known today. In these Whitman turned his back on the literary models of the past. He stressed the rhythms of common American speech, delighting in informal and slang expressions.
For the second edition of Leaves of Grass (1856), Whitman added twenty new poems to his original twelve. With this edition, he began his lifelong practice of adding new poems to Leaves of Grass and revising those previously published in order to bring them into line with his present moods and feelings.
The third edition of Leaves (1860) was brought out by a Boston publisher, one of the few times in his career that Whitman did not have to publish Leaves of Grass at his own expense. This edition, referred to by Whitman as his "new Bible," contained the earlier poems plus one hundred forty-six new ones. For the first time Whitman arranged many of the poems in special groupings, a practice he continued in all later editions.
Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War (1861–65; a war between regions of the United States in which Northern forces clashed with those of the South), Whitman went to Virginia to search for his brother George, reported wounded in action. Here Whitman experienced the war firsthand. He remained in Washington, D.C., working part-time in the Paymaster's Office. He devoted many long hours serving as a volunteer aide in the hospitals in Washington, ministering to the needs of the sick and wounded soldiers. His daily contact with sickness and death took its toll. Whitman himself became ill with "hospital malaria." Within a few months he recovered.
The impact of the war on Whitman was reflected in his separately published Drum-Taps (1865). In such poems as "Cavalry Crossing a Ford," "The Wound- Dresser,“ "Come Up from the Fields Father," "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night," "Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim," and "Year That Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me,“ Whitman caught with beautiful simplicity of statement the horror, loneliness, and anguish caused by the war.
WALT WHITMAN (1819—1892).
Whitman's poetry exercised a great influence on many poets of the twentieth century throughout the world.The poet was born in 1819 at West Hills, a little farming community in Long Island, N.Y. His father moved his family to Brooklyn in 1823. Walt Whitman had experienced a great deal of adversities before recognition came to him. At the age of eleven he began to work as an office-boy in a law-firm. Then he was apprenticed to the printing trade. For two decades the poet worked alternately as printer, editor, and journalist. Whitman was greatly impressed by the revolutionary events of 1848 in Eu-md he took part in the political activities in his country. Whitman protested against all sorts of oppression and especially he exposed inhumanity of slavery. result he did not prosper as an editor because his social views did not agree with the policies of the owners of the papers on which he was employed. In this period appeared his first poem "Europe" (1850), written in unconventional verse Form, It was included Into the collection of poems named "Leaves of Grass" which in its first version appeared in 1855 (with its final additions and revisions it came out in I892). The publisher was Whitman himself who had printed it at his own expense. But the book brought him neither money nor fame. It was only later on that it was recognized as one of the masterpieces of world literature. To earn money Whitman continued to contribute to newspapers. During the Civil War (1861—1865) Whitman praised the people who courageously fought against the slave-owners. His war experiences were reflected in a volume of poetry "Drum-Taps" (1865) and the poems inspired by Lincoln's death: "O Captain! My Captain!" (1865) and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (1866). These were also included into "Leaves of Grass". In his poems Whitman celebrates common people mainly. The poet emphasizes his association with (those who have toil-hardened hands. Whitman had faith in the innate goodness of human nature, in the power and might of man, in his ability to create a better world.
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