Leaves Of Grass By Whitman Essay, Research Paper
Some years ago, when a few copies of a volume called Leaves of Grass found their
way into this country from America, the general verdict of those who had an
opportunity of examining the book was that much of it was indescribably filthy,
most of it mere incoherent rhapsody, none of it what could be termed poetry in
any sense of the word, and that, unless at the hands of some enterprising
Holywell Street publisher, it had no chance of the honour of an English reprint.
Besides, it would be idle to deny that Walt Whitman has many attractions for
minds of a certain class. He is loud, swaggering, and self-assertive, and so
gets credit for strength with those who worship nothing that is not strong. He
is utterly lawless, and in consequence passes for being a great original genius.
His produce is unlike anything else that has ever appeared in literature, and
that is enough for those who are always on the look-out for novelty. He is rich
in all those qualities of haziness, incoherence, and obscurity which seem to be
the first that some readers nowadays look for in poetry. But, above all, he runs
amuck with conventionalities and decencies of every sort, which naturally
endears him to those silly people who take a childish delight in seeing the
respectabilities of the world pulled by the nose, and what they consider its
stupid prejudices shocked. Spoken by Mr. Rosetti, representing British Publisher
of Whitman?s Leaves of Grass. We can see no reason for considering Walt
Whitman powerful. Strong he may be, but it is only in the sense in which an
onion is strong. His noise, bluster, and arrogance are no more indications of
true strength than the swagger of the professional athlete at a country fair,
who struts up and down the stage in salmon-coloured tights, and passes for a
Hercules with the crowd from the way in which he feels his muscles in public.
That he is American in one sense we must admit. He is something which no other
country could have produced. He is American as certain forms of rowdyism and
vulgarity, excrescences on American institutions, are American. But that he is
American in the sense of being representative of American taste, intellect, or
cultivation, we should be very sorry indeed to believe. New he certainly is, but
it is only in his audacity, and in the abnormal structure of his poetry; there
is not a new thought in his writings from beginning to end.