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Friends of Whitman

How could you be a great mind like Walt Whitman and not have people be drawn to you? I’m sure it’s possible in some cases but Whitman not only had close friends who adored him, he had followers who based their course of life off of his words. That’s influence for you. Two such people were Edward Carpenter and Robert Ingersoll. These men, like many others, were so greatly affected by Whitman and in different ways. One was a devout follower of Whitman, more of a disciple, if you will. The other was a close friend and was actually an object of Whitman’s own admiration. Both of them were lucky enough to have a creative mind like Whitman’s in their lives.

Edward Carpenter was born in Hove, England and attended Brighton College. Although he would go on to Cambridge, Carpenter didn’t have a feeling for academics at a young age. Instead he discovered his attachment to nature and this relationship is one that lasted him the rest of his life. While attending University, Carpenter discovered his attraction to men and didn’t feel outwardly comfortable about his feelings right away.

Following his college years, and some time experimenting with men, Carpenter decided to become a Curate in the Anglican Church. Before long, he became unhappy with his life there. He seemed to find the Victorian era, in its entirety, a hypocrisy. His only way out of this fraudulent life he was living was through poetry. Carpenter received his first copy of Leaves of Grass in1868 and the rest is history.

Something in Whitman’s poetry moved him so much that Carpenter decided that he needed to educate the working class of the world. He picked up is life with the church and moved on to become a lecturer of astronomy and outspoken Socialist. After his father died and left him a considerable amount of money, he sought out a home in Milthrope and adapted a more natural lifestyle. This included, among other things, harvesting his own crops and vegetarianism. It was here in his life that he came to terms with his sexual orientation. Because of his new lifestyle away from the Victorian era, his creativity blossomed. One of his great works “Towards Democracy” was written during this time and was greatly influenced, as was the rest of his works, by Whitman.

Carpenter got the chance to visit Whitman in 1877 as well as in 1886 and chronicled these visits in his work, Days with Whitman. Carpenter wouldn’t have become who he was without Whitman giving him the strength to be radical and live how he wants to live. Whitman’s work was the driving factor in Carpenters decision to educate the lower class and that made all the difference in his life.

Whitman’s friend, Robert Ingersoll, was born in 1883 in Dresden, NY. He was the product of an intelligent, abolitionist family. He began studying law and during his time as a law clerk he opened his own practice with his brother, which they named “E.C. & R. G. Ingersoll”. When the Civil War broke out he took command of the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. He was captured during this time and subsequently released on the grounds of giving his word to never fight again, which was common practice at the time. Following the war, Ingersoll became Attorney General of Illinois. His views were very radical for the time period and he was very outspoken. This did not help his political career, but helped his life as an orator greatly. He was incredibly affluent and his lectures ranged in many different genres, however he was very passionate about the ideas humanitarianism and free thought. Needless to say, his ideas appealed to Whitman. He considered Ingersoll to be the greatest orator of all time. Ingersoll was so admired by him that he was chosen to give the eulogy at his funeral, which must have been an incredible honor.

All three of these men shared a common bond; they all seem to be ahead of their time. Each one was filled with ideas that seemed radical for the late nineteenth century. Regardless of the time, they still put themselves out there in a way no one had done before. They paved the way for leaders to come. It’s obvious that great minds connect to one another, and these friendships and admirations illustrate that fact.

Cinepoem by Jackie

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A SONG of the rolling earth, and of words according,
Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines?
those curves, angles, dots?
No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the ground
and sea,
They are in the air, they are in you.

Were you thinking that those were the words, those delicious sounds
out of your friends’ mouths?
No, the real words are more delicious than they.

Human bodies are words, myriads of words,
(In the best poems re-appears the body, man’s or woman’s,
well-shaped, natural, gay,
Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of

Air, soil, water, fire-those are words,
I myself am a word with them-my qualities interpenetrate with
theirs-my name is nothing to them,
Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would
air, soil, water, fire, know of my name?

A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words,
sayings, meanings,
The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women,
are sayings and meanings also.

The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth,
The masters know the earth’s words and use them more than audible

Amelioration is one of the earth’s words,
The earth neither lags nor hastens,
It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the
It is not half beautiful only, defects and excrescences show just as
much as perfections show.

The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough,
The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d
They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print,
They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly,
Conveying a sentiment and invitation, I utter and utter,
I speak not, yet if you hear me not of what avail am I to you?
To bear, to better, lacking these of what avail am I?

(Accouche! accouchez!
Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there?
Will you squat and stifle there?)

The earth does not argue,
Is not pathetic, has no arrangements,
Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise,
Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures,
Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out,
Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out.

The earth does not exhibit itself nor refuse to exhibit itself,
possesses still underneath,
Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the
wail of slaves,
Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young
people, accents of bargainers,
Underneath these possessing words that never fall.

To her children the words of the eloquent dumb great mother never
The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail and reflection
does not fall,
Also the day and night do not fall, and the voyage we pursue does
not fall.

Of the interminable sisters,
Of the ceaseless cotillons of sisters,
Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger
The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest.

With her ample back towards every beholder,
With the fascinations of youth and the equal fascinations of age,
Sits she whom I too love like the rest, sits undisturb’d,
Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her
eyes glance back from it,
Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none,
Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.

Seen at hand or seen at a distance,
Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day,
Duly approach and pass with their companions or a companion,
Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the countenances
of those who are with them,
From the countenances of children or women or the manly countenance,
From the open countenances of animals or from inanimate things,
From the landscape or waters or from the exquisite apparition of the
From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them,
Every day in public appearing without fall, but never twice with the
same companions.

Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and
sixty-five resistlessly round the sun;
Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred and
sixty-five offsets of the first, sure and necessary as they.

Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading,
Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing,
The soul’s realization and determination still inheriting,
The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing,
No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking,
Swift, glad, content, unbereav’d, nothing losing,
Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account,
The divine ship sails the divine sea.

Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you,
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.

Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky,
For none more than you are the present and the past,
For none more than you is immortality.

Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word of the
past and present, and the true word of immortality;
No one can acquire for another-not one,
Not one can grow for another-not one.

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him,
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him,
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him,
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him-it cannot fail,
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress
not to the audience,
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or
the indication of his own.

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall
be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains
jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those
of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the
theory of the earth,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account,
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of
the earth.

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which
responds love,
It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the
Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths of the
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best,
It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.

The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow, all or any is best,
It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier, nearer,
Things are not dismiss’d from the places they held before,
The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before,
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as
But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct,
No reasoning, no proof has establish’d it,
Undeniable growth has establish’d it.

These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls,
(If they did not echo the phrases of souls what were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial what were they then?)

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells
the best,
I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.

Say on, sayers! sing on, singers!
Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth!
Work on, age after age, nothing is to be lost,
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use,
When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall

I swear to you the architects shall appear without fall,
I swear to you they will understand you and justify you,
The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses
all and is faithful to all,
He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you
are not an iota less than they,
You shall be fully glorified in them.

Jackie for Nov. 19

I found Whitman’s writing to be less substantial than that of his earlier work. That is to say, substantial in length, not quality. He is still a great writer, but his poems are obviously much shorter in length and have a much darker feel to them. I suppose I personally prefer his earlier writing because it was much more a celebratory work rather than lamenting on the eminent fate that is fast approaching him. I suppose its easy for me to say that because I’m twenty three years old and haven’t suffered a stroke or seen the effects of war and death first hand. However, comparing this to his earlier work, I think I prefer the more lighthearted stuff.

That’s not to say that this darker Whitman doesn’t appeal to me at all. For whatever reason, I think that everyone has some sort of fascination with death; perhaps be because it is the great equalizer. It truly is his style of writing and word choice that appeals to me. I’ve always found his informal style of poetry to be very freeing and he maintains this up until the very end of his life. Other poets of his day had a formality about their writing that I always found to be very rigid and my idea of poetry is that it is a very fluid art. I feel that Whitman is really one of the greatest of all poets because he stayed true to his art until the very end.

In his poem “L of G’s Purpose” he says ” I sing of life, yet mind me well of death”. I think that this line sums up the Deathbed edition of Leaves. He began Leaves of Grass with this idea of celebrating one’s life in whatever occupation you hold or caste system you belong to. He matures more when he adds Drum Taps and sees the pain and death that a war can cause. That revisal brings a little more reality to Leaves of Grass as a whole. In this later poetry we see the effects of his health and how he feels about his life in general. Leaves of Grass becomes a more mature and aged work the more mature and aged Whitman becomes. It is that fact that demonstrates how Leaves of Grass was literally and figuratively a part of him. The work grew with him and they are one in the same.

Second Annex Annotation

I chose to look at the poem My 71st Year. I liked this one a lot because Whitman seems to bring the War theme of his poetry full circle with his life. He describes himself as living three score and ten, which is seventy years. In saying that it seems to have a formal, military-like feel to it. He goes on to lament the things he’s experienced in his life, but I found it curious that he mentions “chances, changes, losses and sorrows”. Already the poem has a melancholy feel to it. It seems as though the sadness that accompanies war is also parallel with his life. He does not mention triumphs or victories; only “changes, losses, and sorrows”

This tone continues in the next line with him mentioning his parents deaths and the war. The one thing that might be positive in this line he turns into a negative by saying the “tearing passions of me”. This made me feel as though he were pulled apart by his passions and the things that made his poetry great. His passions are what set him apart from the norm and it seems here as though he were regretting that because society felt it was perverse.

In the next few lines he compares himself to a soldier, which obviously brings that war theme home. He’s comparing his life to a soldiers journey home from war. He is weak and tired, yet he still answers to his role call and salutes his officer. I really liked the last line because it gave the poem a last feeling of optimism. I felt as though he were regretting his life’s work in the beginning of the poem. However, in this last line, when he “salutes”, it feels like he is proud of his life and what he has done with it.

This past Saturday I had the privilege of visiting the house in which Whitman spent the last few years of his life and actually passed away in. For me, as well as some of my classmates and Dr. Hoffman, it was like stepping back into the late nineteenth century and experiencing Whitman in a completely different way. I love learning about history, but I honestly thought this was just going to be another tour in another historical house. One where there are velvet ropes blocking essentially everything and you’re not allowed to look at anything for too long because it’s so old it might disintegrate. I couldn’t have been farther off in my assumption.

Everything was completely out in the open for everyone to see and there were no velvet ropes to be seen. This was Walt Whitman’s house, and it looked just as he left it one hundred and seventeen years ago. Needless to say, it was pretty cool for a group of Whitman buffs.

Our tour guide, who also gives tours through Edgar Allen Poe’s house in Philadelphia, was well versed in his knowledge of Whitman. We spent the first half an hour or so discussing Whitman’s life and what brought him to Camden. He came here after he suffered a stroke to live with his brother on Stevens Street which was the next block over from where Whitman finally set himself in on Mickle Street. This house is one of a section of four row homes together in the middle of what is now downtown Camden. Across the street, literally, is the city prison. The house is no longer in the quaint neighborhood it once existed in. However, the house itself maintains a certain personality, just like it were trapped in time. In the back yard, you wouldn’t even know you were in Camden as it exists today. It has the charm and appeal of the old world.

So that was it, the tour was great, and very informative. We were able to go through the whole house, his bedroom included, and we were able to see it in the way it was in the 1880s. In short, it was incredible. I wanted to post some of the pictures I was allowed to take. Here are some from the outside front and his backyard garden. Enjoy!





Garden View

Garden View

"WW"Class shot

Jackie for Nov. 5

In this sequence, Songs of Parting, Whitman seems to bring his poetry full circle. He began with lamenting about himself, and how he loved himself and everyone should, in turn, love themselves as well. He’s celebrating life as it is happening and he feels that this is something that isn’t to be taken for granted. In his war poetry he illustrates the power of war and what it does to the human spirt and the nation as a whole. He starts off with the feeling of unity and slowly progresses to what war actually does to a person; the reality of the toll war takes on you. In this series Whitman seems to celebrate the life that one has and the realities of a life ending. The poem that spoke to me the most was the very last in the sequence: So Long!

When one read’s this poem they can actually feel how Whitman feels. This poem seems to be illuminated with his ideas of what he wants to carry one when he is gone. He acknowledges his own accomplishments in his writing,

“I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I
sung, and the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births.”

He goes on to list, as he is most famous for doing, all of the things he finds so important for human life. This poem seems to be is last words or his last will. If it is the last things we do, we should maintain all of these things for the good of humanity. Whitman then imagines his own death and his words ceasing. You feel like you are with him at his deathbed and then hearing him speak to you from this unknown world.

This is the perfect poem for him to end his work. It’s ironic that he asks us not to forget him because at the time, I’m sure he probably thought that his life’s work was going to have gone completely unnoticed. The last line is particularly great because he mentions himself disembodied, which is true because he gave so much of himself to Leaves of Grass over the span of his lifetime. Even while he was alive, he put his soul into it to make it the great work that it is today. At the time, I’m sure he didn’t think he would be triumphant with the masses, but he most definitely was triumphant in himself. I felt that the tone of this poem was a great reflection on his life, because it seemed to be more celebratory rather than mournful. He merely wants us to remember him in his work and accept this “kiss” he gives all of us. I’m certain that over the years, Whitman was granted his dying wish.

Museum Exhibit

There is no doubt that most of us have an interest in Whitman and how he thinks, otherwise I don’t think many of us would be in this class! Clearly, his ideas and beliefs were so far ahead of their time; so perhaps his brain worked in ways that some of us can not even fathom. In fact, I’m sure many of us have said “Man, I’d like to pick Walt Whitman’s brain!” Well, the funny thing is, that scientists actually have.

Here’s just a quick history in Phrenology for you: Whitman had a love of the mind, both figuratively and literally. In his time, Phrenology was the study of the mind. Obviously, nineteenth century America did not have the technological luxuries we have today so the practice is labeled as a “pseudo-science” today. This science was based on the shape of one’s skull and determining different types of personality traits from it. It was believed then that the brain was made up of 27 different “organs” and each had a distinct personality trait. A phrenologist would run his hands over the skull and look for enlargements or irregularities of any kind. After having done this, he could then assess the person’s character or treat any disorders that might be found. This science was used not only to explain certain mental disorders we know of today, but also used to determine a child’s future and possible marriage options for them.

Neurological Advances have obviously made this practice obsolete, but it was considered incredibly avant-garde in Whitman’s time.

In 1849, Whitman had his own phrenological reading done and this is probably why he had such a strong calling to it. Orson and Lorenzo Fowler were brothers who made this science of Phrenology into a business during this time. They were the one’s who gave Whitman insight into this practice and ultimately gave him his first reading. The Fowler brothers would also go on to sell the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which Whitman published himself. (Mackey)

Whitman was so influenced by Phrenology that it can be seen throughout many of his works. He uses phrenological terms such as Amativeness and Adhesiveness. Amativeness is a term that describes sexual desire and reproductive instinct. From a phrenological standpoint, it is located on the lower side on the back of the head, between the ears. This is something that is very obviously seen throughout much of Whitman’s work. There is no doubt that many of his poems are sexually charged and some very sexually explicit. He seemed to be very open with his idea’s about how men and women are meant to be sexual beings. He felt as though the body was something to celebrate and worship, not something to be ashamed of.

Adhesiveness, or affection, is the term used for friendship. This was said to be found on the posterior part of the parietal bone; or for those of us with little knowledge of the skull, it’s on the back portion of the head. The idea of friendship or adhesiveness is also seen a lot in Whitman’s work. What strikes me about this is friendship and sexuality seem to go hand in hand with Whitman. He tries to dismiss any feelings homosexuality with the idea that the men he speaks of are “just friends.” It seems that these two ideas, amativeness and adhesiveness coincide greatly with him perhaps because of his sexuality.

Not only does Whitman’s work illustrate his love of this science, but his posthumous years do as well. Whitman donated his body to science and his brain was obtained by the American Anthropometric Society. In 1911, Dr. Edward Spitzka took part in an experiment in which he disected the brains of one hundred of the greatest minds of the time. Edgar Allen Poe was in the group, as well as our Walt Whitman. He studied these “educated and orderly” brains along with the brains of the “illiterate and disorderly.” In the article, Spitzka mentions that “an accident befell” Whitman’s brain. He goes on to mention that the brain was kept very well preserved. however, “some careless attendent in the laboratory let the jar fall to the ground” It was never stated if the brain was destroyed but “it’s a pity not even the fragments were recovered.” (NYtimes, 1911)

Here’s a little idea of what that might have been like: True Story

I found Whitman’s devotion to science very fascinating and adds to his nature of being ground-breaking. He seemed to be interested in all things progressive. Perhaps this relates back to his personal self and wanting to know why one thinks the way they do and how some think differently than others. Any way you look at it, Whitman does not seem to have any barriers in his life and is open to anything, which is perhaps why he was the great poet that he was.


Phrenology in America; Matthew C Vulkin. Department of Psychology, Hanover College

Phrenological Whitman, Nathan Mackey

The History of Phrenology on the Web, John Van Wyhe


NyTimes; Septemer 29, 1912.

Sorry this is late everyone! The flu can sure wipe you out! :(

October 8

In this portion of his work, Whitman candidly paints a portrait of what it is like to experience war first hand. I feel that war is a time of mixed emotions. On the one hand, people are losing their loved ones and experiencing death and sadness all around them. However, so many feel a collective pride in the country and what their soldiers are fighting for. This was true in Whitman’s day and still holds true today. The first few poems in the sequence literally describe how the nation comes together when they are called to fight for their country. The men stopped what they were doing to answer their call of duty and the country became less like muse for the poet and more like a cold battleground.

The poem that really struck me was “The Centenarian’s Story”. In this poem, the poet is visiting with a hundred year old man who is a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The poem is set where the Battle of Brooklyn Heights took place. The poet describes to the old man what is going on around him because his eyesight is failing. This account launches the old man into is recollection of the battle and what he vividly remembers. What I liked so much about it was the parallel between the two generations and perhaps the not-so-ovbvious connection it has to future generations. It seems as though every generation has their own struggles and battles to fight. Some perhaps even have the sad experience of a time of war just like these two men did. The old man made the younger man realize that right where these troops were doing their drills, many men lost their lives fighting the same kind of battle. That can be taken beyond this setting and thought about for any other battle fought in any other war.

In “Come up from the fields Father” and “Vigil strange I kept on the field one night”, death comes into account much more vividly. Death is never something that is forgotten during wartime, but sometimes it seems to be shrouded in a patriotic light. This is not to say that that is a bad thing, but these two poems seem to capture the raw reality of death from the perspective of a grieving family and from the first hand. These, as well as all the rest of the poems are interesting to read in this time because we are experiencing war right now. There are so many men who are seeing their friends die in front of them and so many families who are receiving the word that their son or daughter was lost in the war. This just goes to show that so much of Whitman’s poetry rings true now and will continue to for so many generations to come.

Sept 24

Having finished the first edition of Leaves of Grass, I think I’ve fallen in love with Whitman even more. I found myself reading it aloud because, for me, it just sounds so beautiful. It’s so intriguing to me that a man who lived in his time would have these views of the world. It was like I would have to remind myself that he lived over a century ago and some of the things that he would talk about were not at all accepted in the world he lived in. My three favorites in the grouping of poems were “A Song for Occupations”, “To Think of Time” and “I Sing the Body Electric”. All of Whitman’s work seem to have strong messages of one’s worth in the world but these three particularly spoke to me.

In “Occupations” Whitman clearly demonstrates that he truly is the poet of democracy. He’s talking about how all men and women of every caste system are created equal. He even says,
“Is it you that thought the President greater than you? or the rich
better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?”
he goes on to say,
“Grown, half-grown, and babe- of this country and every country,
indoors and outdoors I see…..and all else is behind or
through them.”
Even though in this day and age money makes it difficult for everyone to be created equal, people are not treated the way they were back in Whitman’s day. This is why it’s so incredible that he not only felt this equality but he wrote about it and preached it. We now know that this was a time of change with the Civil War about to begin. With that in mind, it makes me think that many people felt this way at the same time Whitman did, but no one had the guts he had to put it out for the world to see.

It is clear to see throughout his writing that Whitman saw the beauty of virtually everything. In nature, men’s bodies, women’s bodies, the soul, himself and in the good of a person. In his poetry he makes it is job to show people this beauty even if it is blunt and crude. No matter what, everything has meaning and has a divine quality to it and he is the one who opens our eyes to all the simplistic beauty in the world.

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