WHITMAN, WALT. 1819-1892.
Autograph Manuscript, 1 p, 4to, "July, by the Pond," [Camden, New Jersey, 1876], several chips at folds, 2 separations at folds, 2 small tears affecting approximately two words of text, irregular right margin, very light toning.
Provenance: Marjorie Wiggin Prescott (her sale, Christie's New York, February 6, 1981, lot 327).
THE POET ON HIS PEERS, DEATH, AND LEAVES OF GRASS: part of Whitman's essay "Notes on the Meaning and Intention of Leaves of Grass," which was published after his death. Written in 1876, it served as a reminder of his aims, some two decades after the first publication of the poem. Whitman reminds himself that America needs "one modern, native, all-surrounding song," a poem that expresses "Individuality strong and superb."
In the present passage, he reflects on the content of the poem: "The same thoughts & themesunfulfilled aspirations, the enthusiasms of youth, ideal dreams, the mysteries and failures and broken hopes of life, and then death, the common fate of all & the impenetrable uncertainty of the Afterwardwhich Wordsworth treats in his 'Intimations of Immortality,' Bryant in his 'Thanatopsis' and in the 'Flood of Years,' and Whittier often in his pieces, WW also treats in Leaves of Grass. But how different the treatment! Instead of the gloom and hopelessness and spirit of wailing reproach or bowed-down submission as to some grim Destiny, which is the basis & background of those fine poems, Instead of Life and Nature growing staleinstead of Death like a blight and end-all," the essay continues, "Mine are not the songs of a story teller, or a voluptuous person, or of an ennuyéed person,but of an American constructor, looked with friendly eyes upon the earth and men and beholding the vista of the great mission of The States."