Walt Whitman


Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Binns, p. 8.
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Whitman is considered to be one of the United States' greatest poets. Born near Long Island, he lived in New York for a time, and many of his poems celebrate the city and its' inhabitants. He worked as a writer, printer, editor, teacher, and even as a hospital aide during the Civil War. He was deeply interested in politics and examining democracy as a practice and an ideal. He traveled throughout the US and Canada. Some of his best-known works are his book of poems, Leaves of Grass (1855) and such individual poems as "Oh Captain! My Captain!" and "Song of the Open Road."Though dead before the start of the Spanish-American War, some of Whitman's writings reflect the national confidence and pride which led to enthusiasm for the war.

Major Works


Whitman made a few predictions for the future of the U.S. in his essay, "Democratic Vistas". In this November 1868 passage Whitman's prediction is mostly false; however, it does reveal a confidence in an ever-expanding America.

Whitman mentions Canada in "Democratic Vistas", and he would often speak of the country as if it were to become part of the United States. His expansionist ideal was not limited to Canada; Cuba comes into the picture in another one of his predictions, this from another series of essays published in Specimen Days and Collect, published in 1882. Once again, he foresees the United States as becoming a dominant super power, a view shared by many during the Spanish-American war.

Other notable lines by Whitman, full of national confidence and pride:

"We want the germinal idea that America, inheritor of the past, is the custodian of the future of humanity." (From Specimen Days and Collect)

"It seems as if the Almighty had spread before this nation charts of imperial destinies, dazzling as the sun. . .[America] will be empire of empires, overshadowing all else, past and present. . ." (From Specimen Days and Collect)

"For America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down." (from "Democratic Vistas")

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Comments: Ask a Librarian (09/02/04)