And to be sure, he had it expressly stipulated beforehand, that it was to be without any sort of remuneration. From the spring of onward, this nursing in the field, and in the hospitals at Washington, was his "only employment by day and by night. Every wounded man, from the North and the South alike, had the same careful and loving attendance at the hands of the poet. At the end of the war, it is said, he must have nursed with his own hands more than , sick and wounded.
For six months he himself lay sick; a hospital fever, the first sickness of his life, had seized him. After the war he obtained a minor office in the Department of the Interior at Washington, but lost it in June, , when the minister, Mr. Harlan, had it brought to his attention, that Whitman was the author of the book, "Leaves of Grass," the coarseness, or as it appeared to Mr.
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Harlan, the immorality of which filled the ministerial bosom with holy horror. But the poet found soon another post of modest salary in the bureau of the Attorney General at Washington. There he is still living. On Sunday, and sometimes in the week also, he still keeps up his visits to the hospitals.
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Whitman is a plain man, a man of few needs. Poor, and, according to his own avowal, without talent for moneymaking. His strength, said he to a visitor, Mr. Conway, an American living in London, lay in "loafing and writing poems. Conway found him while yet on Long Island—before the war, indeed , in a temperature of degrees, lying on his back in the grass, and staring at the sun. Just like Diogenes. His abode Conway found very plain and simple.
A small room, poorly furnished, with only one window, which looked out on the sandy solitude of Long Island. Not a single book in the room. But he talked of the Bible, of Homer, and of Shakespeare as of favorite books which he owned. For reading he had two especial study-rooms: one was the top of an omni-bus, the other Coney Island, an uninhabited little sand islet far out in the Atlantic Ocean, miles from the coast. His writings, up to this time, are the above-named "Leaves of Grass" first edition , set up and printed by the poet himself; second edition ; third edition ; then, after the war, "Drum-Taps" with a "Sequel" in which is a fine rhapsody on the death of Abraham Lincoln; and last year, a complete edition with a supplement called "Songs before Parting.
Rossetti, one of Whitman's English admirers. The coarse expressions of doubtful propriety which were in the New York original edition have been left out of this; and it is the purpose of the published by means of this issue to open a path for the preparation of a complete edition and for its unprejudiced reception in England.
We are indebted to Mr. Rossetti's preface to this selection of his for the sketch given above of the poet's life. With these suggestions, we leave the subject for this time, but will soon recur to it, especially to give some translated specimens of the poet's productions. Though it is a dubious business to estimate Whitman from specimens. The principle " ex pede Herculem " is hardly quite applicable to him; if in any way a poet, he will be recognised and honored as such in his totality.
Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung , Wochenausgabe, no. Translation from New Eclectic Magazine 2 July : —; translator unknown. A little while ago, a few German magazines carried reports on the death of one of the most outstanding North American poets on March 26 of this year, Walt Whitman. He had died in Camden near Philadelphia in the seventy-fourth year of his life. The few data on his life and work that accompanied this report, reminiscent of the laconicism of a literary encyclopedia, were hardly designed to inspire further interest in the deceased.
GH - Schwierigkeiten mit der kritischen Geographie
To inspire such interest, however, is very desirable, because hardly anything relevant has as yet been published on Whitman in German. After all, Whitman is not only the most significant poet of North America, but he belongs to world literature, and that, we believe, with greater justification than his countryman Edgar Poe, who is, in a manner of speaking, known to the whole world. Our essay does not make any pretensions. It wants to contribute its modest share to awaken the greater interest for Whitman by giving a short picture of the characteristics of the poet as far as we can gather them from the incomplete translation of his Leaves of Grass.
In the introduction to their translation, one of the translators, Karl Knortz, calls Whitman an "optimist par excellence.
Schwierigkeiten mit der kritischen Geographie
With such a phrase, little is said about a human being who said of himself with these proudly modest words: I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or to be understood, I see that the elementary laws never apologize. The translators have used these lines as motto for their book and they characterize Whitman better than the dusty phrase of the "optimist par excellence.
He can hardly deny his own self and is radically different from the incapacitated romanticism and the christianism from which the "Old World" is presently suffering, with hardly enough breath to throw all kinds of blasphemies against sour grapes. His "barbaric yawp" sounds "over the roofs of the world" like powerful dithyrambs of a new life and a new strength; they resound in the midst of the funeral hymns of the Old World and announce a new religion, a new art and a new meaning of life. Whitman is neither optimist nor pessimist: he is strength. Whitman was born in on Long Island where his family owned a large farm whose fields the Whitmans tilled with their own hands.
There, in the open countryside, in unspoilt nature, he spent the larger part of his youth. Later, in an American manner, he tried his hand in a variety of professions: he was a printer, teacher, carpenter, journalist, building contractor, etc. Although he was on his way to becoming successful and wealthy in a variety of trades, he eventually gave everything up and started to write poetry.
In the 60s, just after the Leaves had appeared, he spent the Civil War on the battlefield and worked as a nurse in the hospitals. During that time, he earned his living as a newspaper correspondent. For his various services, he received a small job at the Ministry of the Interior which he did not keep for long.
He owed his dismissal to the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, a former Methodist preacher, who was morally outraged over the Leaves published in His friends procured for him a new position in the office of the Attorney General which he kept until At that time, he suffered a stroke. His health was shattered as a consequence of the exertions in the war.
He improved slowly without ever completely recovering. Later, he managed to make a small, very modest home for himself in Camden and this is where, without bitterness and complaint, he authored his best poetry which shows a "special religious consecration" I am quoting Rolleston, whose introduction to the translation of the Leaves serves me as a source for this short sketch of Whitman's life , "a quiet, transfigured beauty, contrasting with the mood of the earlier poems just as the starry nocturnal heavens contrast with the sunlit earth.
Thus he created his poetry while continuously changing locations, at times in the midst of the rich colorful traffic of the American metropolis, among the boldest and most enormous achievements of modern industry, at times in the great outdoors of his continent, always in the midst of battle and tumult of a colorful life.
The spirit of his art is as different from the spirit of the middle ages as the medieval spirit was itself different from classical antiquity; it grows as organically out of the middle ages as the medieval spirit grew out of that of classical antiquity. For today, my work is done. It is growing dusky. Tired and deadened from all my writing I lean out of the window and see how the sunlight at the facade of the high building across from me gradually disappears.
And then, after all the reading and all the work, I feel how constricted our lives are, I understand and sense our misery. The street with the jumble and the noise of traffic reaches far down, loses itself in both directions in smoke and in the confusing bustle of the side streets. Above, a narrow, scanty piece of heaven, darkened and polluted by the rising food vapors.
Behind the windows on the other side, all the way down the long street, next to me, above and below me, from all sides a pressing, shoving and constriction and confusion between the gray masses of stone. And, like here, this extends in concentric circles for hours, far into the countryside.
Far, far away somewhere, nature is alive with its free air of the heavens, and its free stars, with its meadows, fields and forests, with mountains, streams, lakes, and seas, far away, unreal like a legend, like a fabulous fairy tale which we read in our children's books. The countless threads through which our life, our feeling, and our perception are connected to infinite mysteries seem to be cut. We are alone, alone with ourselves, man with man, in the vibrating restlessness of this constriction and its nerve-shattering, confusing pell-mell.
Our suffering, our misery and our joys, however, turn into monsters in this all too obvious crowdedness, distorted by a devilish perspective. And all the refinements of our aged culture cannot hide the great, fundamental disease which we have been trying to cure with all kinds of medicines for some time: our lack of religion or, if we want, our lack of energy, the atrophy of our perception. Our recent ethical endeavors. So many half-hearted attempts to get to the root of our general malaise.
But how can we help each other, if we have only an understanding of how we are connected with all things from close and far but not a living perception of them? If we have no "religion" from which alone originates love, self-awareness, joy, force, art, ethics, manhood and comprehension of life? How can we get to the root of the thousandfold misery of a metropolis, the distress of the poor, if we cannot even stand looking at it and if it seduces us to blasphemies against the world?
Now let's think about all the pessimism and all the decadence of our European world. Let's think about all its art, its artifice, its artificiality, its refinements, its moral hangover, all its nervous and yearning distress—and then let's listen to the "optimist par excellence," Walt Whitman. How do we suddenly feel? In free verses, it appears before us with all of its miracles. With unheard-of sounds and rhythms which seem like the fresh roaring of the wind, like the sea waves approaching with their vast rolling splendor.
Unfamiliar, totally separate from the refinements from our aged and wizened art. Victory, union, faith, identity, time, The indissoluble compacts, riches, mystery, Eternal progress, the kosmos, and the modern reports. We are forced to stop. This is a child's stammering. Helpless, unwieldy, unarticulate, ridiculous to our well-trained thinking and feeling. But we understand: it is the jubilant helplessness in the face of a new infinite wealth of penetrating perceptions, the surprised jubilant cry with which a child liberates itself from its sweet burden, joyfully, verifying the data it perceives.
There is the blessed, vigorous turmoil of living growth inside. All of this, then, this whole new fullness rushing in on us: This then is life, Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.
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How curious! Underfoot the divine soil, overhead the sun. See revolving the globe, The ancestor-continents away group'd together, The present and future continents north and south with the isthmus between.