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The Publishing History of Leaves of Grass

Amanda Gailey, University of Nebraska

Introduction @

Leaves of Grass, the centerpiece of Whitman’s writing, and one of the most important books in U.S. literary history, is also one of the most difficult texts in literary history to define. Whitman envisioned his magnum opus as a living, growing, organic being, and he saw the book through six significantly different editions in his lifetime, most of which contained many variant issues. Today we are accustomed to a relative homogeneity among copies of a particular edition: modern printing and marketing ensure that, provided we both own either the hardback or paperback issue, your copy of a particular volume will be almost imperceptibly different from mine. But Whitman and his readers worked within a technologically different publishing economy, and most editions of Leaves of Grass would have been available in often strikingly different forms. Not only were alternate bindings available, but—because Whitman was such a tireless reviser and was so involved in the physical production of his own books—there were also significant textual variations among particular copies@.

Since Whitman’s death, most publishers and readers have come to think of Leaves of Grass as synonymous with the “deathbed edition,” the expanded reissue of the 1881 edition that Whitman released in 1892. Indeed, Whitman asked that the deathbed edition be considered authoritative, and many—though not all—publishers and scholars complied, perhaps spurred by the ease and lower costs associated with studying and printing one book, and surely inspired by scholarly notions of final intentions and authoritative texts that dominated much of twentieth century editing. But this practice has come at the cost of neglecting the rich, fluid, and complex historical presence that Leaves of Grass, in all of its instantiations, had in American culture from its first edition in 1855 to its last authorized issue in 1892. While it may be convenient to think of Leaves of Grass as the deathbed edition, it is neither as historically accurate nor as textually rewarding as is a more careful consideration of this evolving and often elusive book.

Scholarship concerning the publication history of Leaves of Grass has often disagreed about even such factual matters as how many editions of the book existed in Whitman’s lifetime. Some scholars have erroneously claimed there were up to nine editions, arriving at inflated numbers by counting impressions (separate printings of an edition) and varying states of editions as editions in their own rights. Whitman himself contributed to the confusion by referring (as was common in the nineteenth century) to impressions as editions, as in his request that the 1892 “edition” be considered authoritative. The standard definition of "edition" among bibliographers today, though, is "all copies of a book that are printed from one setting of type, whether directly from the type or indirectly through plates made from it."@ Most textual scholars now agree that in order to qualify as a new edition, type resetting should be substantial and should not simply be a matter of correcting isolated errors.@ Using current bibliographic standards, we find that Whitman released six editions of Leaves of Grass: in 1855, 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871-1872, and 1881-1882. Each of these editions encompassed considerable variations, and each enjoyed its own reign—whether for only one year in the case of the 1855 edition, or now over 120 in the case of the 1881—as the most recent, authoritative edition that the American public would have known as Leaves of Grass. After the first, each edition bore many similarities to its predecessor, but each contained significant changes: the addition of new poems, subtractions and revisions of old poems, shifting and recombining poems, and differing bindings and layouts.

The 1855 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1855
The first edition of Leaves of Grass appeared in bookstores in Brooklyn and Boston in July of 1855. Whitman was virtually unknown as a poet at the time, and though many scholars have viewed the 1855 edition as a miraculous birth of sorts, Whitman had, in fact, been laboring for some time before his apparent 1855 debut as a radically new experimental poet.@ In addition to publishing his maudlin (but successful) temperance novel, Franklin Evans, and working as a journalist, he had published four poems in periodicals five years earlier, most of which bore little resemblance to the signature style of flowing free verse evident in the 1855 edition, but one of which, “Resurgemus,” did appear untitled in the book@.
In the 150 years since the appearance of the first Leaves of Grass, scholars have suggested various theories for what may have prompted the poet to produce such a revolutionary work. Emerson even wondered in 1855 about the “long foreground” of Whitman’s “great career” in his letter to the poet. Whitman contributed to the apparent spontaneity of Leaves of Grass by reinventing himself as Walt—not Walter, and by responding somewhat coyly to questions about the germination of the book: he told a friend later that the copy left with his publishers was later used “to kindle the fire or feed the rag man,” implying that most or all evidence of the creation of Leaves of Grass had been destroyed.@ However, some very important drafts that contributed to the first Leaves of Grass still exist today: the “Talbot Wilson” notebook, now housed at the Library of Congress (Notebook #80), which dates back at least a year before the appearance of the 1855 edition, as well as scattered drafts at the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, the University of Tulsa, and Duke University. TheTalbot Wilson notebook, with its working and reworkings of key ideas and expressions, demonstrates that Whitman’s first edition was anything but spontaneous: it was a project he labored at with great intensity.

Individual manuscript drafts shed light on Whitman’s early planning for the book. One manuscript, held at the University of Texas, has long been valued for the early draft contributing to what would eventually be titled “Song of Myself” on its recto, but which was, like the other eleven poems in the 1855 edition, untitled in the book’s debut. On the verso of the manuscript are some seemingly cryptic scribbles that had long been overlooked in favor of the more overtly relevant writing on the recto. But as Ed Folsom has recently shown, the jottings on the back, which include many mathematical calculations, are actually evidence of Whitman’s meticulous planning for the 1855 edition. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this planning is his listing, previous to 1855, of the twelve first Leaves of Grass poems by title, even though he would withhold those titles from the book. Most of the poems he lists are called simply by their first lines (some of these would retain those names in later editions of the book, such as “Great Are the Myths”). But Whitman gives unique titles to some of the poems in the 1855 edition, most notably one he calls in this manuscript “Slaves,” but which would later go by “I Sing the Body Electric.” The calculations on the page, apparently irrelevant at first glance, are Whitman’s efforts to figure out how long his book would be. He also counts the number of letters in one of his poems and compares it to how many letters fit per page in a Shakespeare volume. His math was, incidentally, fairly far off, and he overestimated the book’s length by more than twenty pages.@

The odd book that a relatively few readers found on shelves that summer was quite unlike anything the journalist had publicly produced before, and, in fact, was very much unlike what most book buyers would have been accustomed to at the time. Its size was strange—a large, thin quarto; and the copies most shoppers would have seen had solid dark green covers sprouting unruly, viny gold letters spelling Leaves of Grass across the center of the front. No author’s name appeared on the cover, and, in fact, none was on the title page. Curious readers could attribute the book to the anonymous man in the now famous frontispiece, who met them confidently, in his work clothes, head cocked, hand on hip. Whitman’s name appears twice: on the copyright notice, and on page 29, when, in the middle of the first poem (ultimately titled “Song of Myself"), he offers the verbal counterpart of his frontispiece portrait: “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, / Disorderly fleshy and sensual….eating drinking and breeding,/ No sentimentalist….no stander above men and women or apart from them….no more modest than immodest.”

Whitman himself paid for the publication of the 1855 edition. This practice was fairly common in the nineteenth century, especially among fledgling authors, and did not carry the same stigma that vanity publications do today. The book was printed by Andrew and James Rome of Brooklyn, and was published by Fowler and Wells, a phrenological firm, who distributed and promoted the work. Whitman’s association with the phrenologists went back several years. In 1849 he visited their Phrenological Cabinet, where he had his skull analyzed.@ The analysis was very flattering to Whitman, and seems to have bolstered his faith in the pseudoscience, as he reprinted the phrenologists’ findings several times and sought out their firm as publishers for his book.

795 copies of the 1855 edition were printed, and copies ranged in price from seventy-five cents for cheaper ones in paper wrappers to two dollars for the more famous green cloth binding.@ In a letter to Emerson that Whitman would write the next year, he claims to have “printed a thousand copies, and they readily sold” which by all other accounts is hardly accurate. In fact, Whitman’s mathematical estimates, even as early as his page-count projections in the Texas manuscript, should usually be approached with skepticism: in the same letter to Emerson, he predicts, “A few years, and the average annual call for my Poems is ten or twenty thousand copies — more, quite likely,” a highly inflated claim.

Scholars have long suggested that the 1855 edition laid out the key themes and concerns that future editions would expand upon. Many critics believe that “Song of Myself,” as the first poem of the 1855 edition would eventually be called, consistently held an axial position in each edition of Leaves of Grass, and indeed that the poem itself serves as a miniature for the book as a whole even as it morphed over the years. In the 1855 edition, that single poem took up over half of the book’s pages. In The Structure of Leaves of Grass, Thomas Crawley argues that with the 1855 edition Whitman established a trajectory in his poems that did not significantly change—except to expand—over the next editions. Crawley believes that in this early edition Whitman establishes his recurring dichotomy of body and soul, the material and the spiritual, that would pattern all future editions.@ This much seems right, and indeed poems such as “Song of Myself,” recurrent in every edition, suggest such a dichotomy overtly to the reader. Later, Whitman would even experiment with separating these two strains into separate books, Leaves of Grass and Passage to India. However, contrary to the claims of critics such as Crawley, Whitman could not have foreseen the many developments in the various versions of Leaves of Grass in 1855, especially since such events as the Civil War would be so formative to his project, and since on a few occasions he aborted other plans for his poems, such as separating them into different volumes. While it may not be evident that in 1855 Whitman had a decided strategy for developing Leaves of Grass over the coming decades, it is clear that the timbre he struck with his first twelve poems was one to which he felt committed for the rest of his life. In fact, of the twelve poems he included in the 1855 edition, only the final one, which was later titled “Great Are the Myths,” was not retained through to the 1881 edition, though even lines from that one were salvaged in “Youth, Day, Old Age, and Night,” which did survive to the end. Even Whitman’s long prose preface, which functions as both a poetic and political manifesto, would be partially reworked later into the poem “By Blue Ontario’s Shores.”

One of the most striking aspects of Leaves of Grass is how it became so widely synonymous with its creator. Certainly many extra-textual aspects of the book lend itself to this: Whitman, resisting the nineteenth-century divisions of labor in industrialized of book production, did not view his poet’s role as ending at the publisher’s door. He was involved in every aspect of the book’s production—its physical design, its type, it printing and binding. Both the semantic content and the physical features of the volume were Whitman’s creations, and the few buyers of the first edition brought home something that was as much the product of an artisan as a mechanized process. Whitman himself explained, “My theory is that the author might be the maker even of the body of his book—set the type, print the book on a press, put a cover on it, all with his own hand.s”@ Furthermore, the striking frontispiece portrait asked readers to associate the words with a physical being and not just a name. The repeated use of “I” throughout the book accentuated the metonymy, and the book was met at once with such an interpretation. An anonymous reviewer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote on September 15, 1855, a mere two months after the books release:
Its author is Walter Whitman, and the book is a reproduction of the author. His name is not on the frontispiece, but his portrait, half length, is. The contents of the book form a daguerreotype of his inner being, and the title page bears a representation of its physical tabernacle.@
This view of the book’s relationship to Whitman would only strengthen as the book developed with its author over the following twenty-six years.

That critic for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ended his review of the 1855 edition on a lukewarm note: “We have said that the work defies criticism; we pronounce no judgment upon it; it is a work that will satisfy few upon a first perusal; it must be read again and again, and then it will be to many unaccountable.” Such a reception seemed favorable, though, compared to many other reviews the book first received. The same month that the Eagle review appeared, Charles Eliot Norton, writing for Putnam’s Monthly, reported: “words usually banished from polite society are here employed without reserve and with perfect indifference to their effect on the reader's mind; and not only is the book one not to be read aloud to a mixed audience, but the introduction of terms, never before heard or seen, and of slang expressions, often renders an otherwise striking passage altogether laughable.” A less courteous reviewer, Rufus Griswold, wrote in November for Criterion:
…it is impossible to imagine how any man's fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love. This poet (?) without wit, but with a certain vagrant wildness, just serves to show the energy which natural imbecility is occasionally capable of under strong excitement. 
The book did, though, receive some praise. One review stated:
An American bard at last! One of the roughs, large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking, and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded, his posture strong and erect, his voice bringing hope and prophecy to the generous races of young and old. We shall cease shamming and be what we really are. We shall start an athletic and defiant literature.
If the tone of this glowing praise seems familiar, it is because Whitman himself wrote this review. He published this review anonymously in the United States Review, and others in the Brooklyn Daily Times and the American Phrenological Journal. Luckily for American literature, Whitman was persistent in developing his poetic vision, and embarked on an aggressive campaign to strengthen his readership. The anonymous reviews are only one illustration of his interest in finessing his public image.

The 1856 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1856
Leaves of Grass, 1856
After the 1855 debut, Whitman promptly began work on a second edition, and the resulting product seems as motivated by marketing strategy as by artistic development. The phrenologists Fowler and Wells, who had published the first edition, were leery of associating themselves with the book after the condemnatory reviews, and published the second edition secretly, withholding their imprint.@ The new edition had Whitman’s name on it—either because the cat was out of the bag after the year’s reviews, or because Whitman now had a defiant pride in his work, or because he no longer found anonymity necessary to his poetic purpose. The edition was physically quite different from its predecessor: unlike the thin, tall quarto, the 1856 edition was a fat, portable volume that Whitman hoped could fit in the pockets of his readers.
The 1856 edition included several strategically incorporated addenda that Whitman viewed as necessary to counter the first edition’s reception. Most notably, Whitman printed on the spine of the book an excerpt from a letter from Emerson that he had received after sending him a copy of the 1855 edition. Under “Leaves of Grass” was printed in gold letters: “I Greet You at the/ Beginning of A/ Great Career/ R.W. Emerson.” Inside, Whitman published the flattering letter in its entirety, though he did not pay Emerson the courtesy of asking his permission to print either the blurb or the letter itself. In fact, Whitman had already reprinted the letter in the New York Tribune in October of 1855, and had tipped it into copies of the first edition that were still waiting to be bound.@ Emerson’s prominent endorsement lent prestige to Leaves of Grass, and Whitman’s scandalous use of it was his most effective public relations maneuver in his early career. The Christian Examiner, which condemned the book in 1856, made particular note of Whitman’s offense at the end of a barrage of insults directed at Leaves of Grass and its author:
There is one feature connected with the second edition of this foul work to which we cannot feel that we do otherwise than right in making a marked reference, because it involves the grossest violation of literary comity and courtesy that ever passed under our notice. Mr. Emerson had written a letter of greeting to the author on the perusal of the first edition, the warmth and eulogium of which amaze us. But 'Walt Whitman' has taken the most emphatic sentence of praise from this letter, and had it stamped in gold, signed 'R. W. Emerson,' upon the back of his second edition. This second edition contains some additional pieces, which in their loathsomeness exceed any of the contents of the first. Thus the honored name of Emerson, which has never before been associated with anything save refinement and delicacy in speech and writing, is made to indorse a work that teems with abominations.
Readers may have doubted the tact of including Emerson’s letter, but the weight of the venerable poet’s praise was clear. He asserted: “I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of ‘LEAVES OF GRASS.’ I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” In addition to his exchange with Emerson, Whitman included nine reviews of the book, including two of his own anonymous ones, as well as a few whose condemnations Whitman seemingly viewed as attracting healthy controversy to his book.

The 1856 edition, like its predecessor, opened with the poem that would eventually be titled “Song of Myself.” In this edition it was titled “Poem of Walt Whitman, an American”—not only did the 1856 edition display Whitman’s name on the cover, it also placed his name prominently in the first poem’s title. The second edition included twenty new poems, eighteen of which survived to the final edition, though almost always under different titles (see tables).

Many readers have held that the 1856 edition is less clearly organized and less balanced than the 1855, likely the result of growing pains as the book began its series of expansions and mutations, which is not surprising considering Whitman released the second edition in only one year’s time. In this edition, Whitman widens his focus from the individual to the national. In the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, the word “America” or some form of it appears twenty-three times; in the 1856 volume, it appears 107 times. Many of the new poems are concerned with the development of the United States, and Whitman’s letter to Emerson at the end of the book makes clear Whitman’s poetic intent as it has coalesced in the new volume: “America is not finished, perhaps never will be; now America is a divine true sketch. There are Thirty-Two States sketched — the population thirty millions. In a few years there will be Fifty States. Again in a few years there will be A Hundred States, the population hundreds of millions, the freshest and freest of men. Of course such men stand to nothing less than the freshest and freest expression.” Many of the political ideas in the 1855 preface move to poems in the 1856 edition: the most notable example of this movement is “A Poem of Many in One” (later “By Blue Ontario’s Shore”), which would persist as one of Whitman’s most notable political poems throughout the evolution of the book.

Amid the controversy surrounding this edition, sales suffered. Whitman, in usual hyperbolic style, claimed to have printed thousands of copies, but his friend, John Burroughs, later claimed that only a thousand had been printed.@ Whatever the precise number printed, the second edition (which sold for a dollar) did not significantly outsell the first. Whitman blamed the reluctant publishers, Fowler and Wells, and decided to switch agents for his next edition.

The 1860 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1860
The third edition of Leaves of Grass was published by a much more enthusiastic (even if less financially successful) company. In February of 1860, the Boston publishing firm of Thayer and Eldridge sent Whitman a letter asking him to allow them to publish his next edition. Whitman consented, and he contracted with the company to receive 10% of retail sales of the book.@ The publishers agreed to give Whitman creative control over the printing process, even though they consequently paid more to print Whitman’s book than they had for any other.@ The result was at least five different bound forms, some of which showcase Whitman’s extraordinary talents as a designer. One version includes pictures of a cloudy globe and a sunrise on the covers. Another version displays on its spine a hand with a butterfly perched on a finger, which would become a recurring image with Whitman—years later he would even pose for a portrait in which he fashioned a cardboard butterfly to perch on his hand.
Probably over 2,000 copies of the 1860 edition were sold, and some estimates push the number closer to 5,000. Readers quickly bought up the first issue, which was printed in the spring, and a second issue had sold out in the summer (Myerson 1993: 34-36). Whitman was excitedly making plans with the publishers for a third issue, as well as for another book, when the firm went bankrupt. The publishers sold their plates to Horace Wentworth, who eventually sold them to Richard Worthington, which resulted in several unauthorized reprintings of the 1860 edition through the 1880s (Donlon 1998, Eiselein 1998). The 1860 edition was consequently one of the most widely read versions of Leaves of Grass in the years before the deathbed edition gained wide currency.

With the 1860 edition, Whitman fully developed his practice of organizing most of the poems into clusters@. Unlike the previous editions, the 1860 opens with “Proto-Leaf,” later titled “Starting from Paumanok.” In the four years since the previous edition, Whitman was hard at work, and the 1860 bears the fruits of his efforts, with a startling 121 new poems@ (see tables).

Three of the poems new to the 1860 edition would not have been new to close followers of Whitman’s career. “A Word Out of the Sea,” later “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” was published as “A Child’s Reminiscence” in the Saturday Press in December of 1859. “You and Me To-Day” appeared in the same newspaper in January of 1860, and would reemerge as number seven of “Chants Democratic” in the new edition of Leaves of Grass. Finally, “Bardic Symbols,” which appeared in the April 1860 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, reappeared as the first poem in the “Leaves of Grass” cluster. Whitman probably had several reasons for spreading his Leaves into periodicals. First, and most practically, it allowed him to bring in additional income between editions. Second, by publishing poems between editions, he could keep himself in the public eye and bolster his public image. The Atlantic Monthly publication of “Bardic Symbols” is a good example of this: it was a prestigious publication, and gave Whitman positive publicity only a couple of months before the appearance of his new edition. William Dean Howells, writing for the Daily Ohio State Journal in March, drew readers’ attention to the Atlantic:
Walt Whitman has higher claims upon our consideration than mere magazine contributorship. He is the author of a book of poetry called "Leaves of Grass," which, whatever else you may think, is wonderful… It drew the attention of critics, but found no favor with the public, for the people suspect and dislike those who nullify venerable laws, and trample upon old forms and usages. Since the publication of his book, Walt Whitman has driven hack in New York, and employed the hours of his literary retiracy in hard work. Some months ago he suddenly flashed upon us in the New York Saturday Press, and created eager dissension among the "crickets." Now he is in the Atlantic, with a poem more lawless, measureless, rhymeless and inscrutable than ever.
Whitman received such publicity only because he stayed active in periodicals. The Atlantic publication also reveals how strategic Whitman was with both his various publication venues and his revisions. “Bardic Symbols” was titled in the Atlantic in March, but was simply numbered within a cluster in the book months later. Whitman must have made a deliberate choice to present the poem differently according to publication medium, or he significantly shifted his view of the work from a stand-alone poem (when it was published in the Atlantic) to a contributing part of a larger whole within a matter of weeks, when he prepared copy for Leaves.

Whitman’s publication of poetry in periodicals fit squarely within the same attitudes toward publishing that he demonstrated throughout his six editions of his book. For Whitman, Leaves was not a fixed text, but, like his persona, was a sprawling, omnivorous, dynamic thing, which throughout its lifetime gathered into itself as much as possible. Whitman’s periodical poems usually were outcroppings of Leaves of Grass. In “Song of Myself,” he wrote, “My ties and ballasts leave me…I travel… I sail […] my palms cover continents… I am afoot with my vision.” Periodicals gave Leaves of Grass legs. They moved the poet into the busy streets of the democracy he sought to articulate and celebrate. With the 1860 edition he began his ongoing project of extending Leaves of Grass into these public venues, and he would further develop the policy with each edition.

Some of the most significant poetic developments within the 1860 edition are the “Chants Democratic,” “Calamus,” and “Enfans d’Adam” clusters. With “Chants Democratic and Native American” Whitman began to cull his poems that most explicitly dealt with politics. One of the striking developments from the previous edition, “Poem of Many in One” (ultimately “By Blue Ontario’s Shores”) found a place here. The cluster included an introduction plus twenty-one poems about various aspects of American politics and society. The introductory poem, “Apostroph,” offers an overview of many of the subjects Whitman addresses in the numbered poems that follow it. He would cut “Apostroph” in the following edition, likely because while the introduction is functional, its three and a half pages of exclamations become somewhat tedious, as the first few lines may illustrate:
O mater! O fils!
O brood continental!
O flowers of the prairies!
O space boundless! O hum of mighty products!
O you teeming cities! O so invincible, turbulent, proud!
O race of the future! O women!
O fathers! O you men of passion and the storm!
O native power only! O beauty!
O yourself! O God! O divine average!
“Calamus,” long prized as one of Whitman’s greatest poetic achievements, arose in this edition. In 1860 “Calamus” was a cluster of forty-five numbered poems; by 1881 Whitman had retooled it to a cluster of thirty-nine titled ones. It is in this cluster in 1860 that Whitman developed his well-known use of the term “comrade” to refer to a range of male-male relationships that are perhaps, due to the passage of time and dramatic changes in cultural context, not altogether recoverable by us today. Whitman chose the word carefully for its ambiguity: sometimes it refers to male-male sexual love and other times to more platonic, intense friendship between men. Kenneth Price has argued that Whitman’s terms for male-male relationships “retain an insistent mystery, a feature Whitman prized highly in his love poetry."@ While “comrade” often suggests carnality in Whitman’s poetry, he always stops short of describing an unambiguous sexual relationship. In fact, manuscript drafts of the poem show Whitman considering using “lover” in place of “comrade,” ultimately opting for the nuance of the latter. “Calamus,” while not as explicitly sexual as other poems in the 1860 edition, is historically significant precisely because of its relative elusiveness, which contributed to the development of a sexual vocabulary that has proven influential to readers and writers since.

“Enfans d’Adam,” later “Children of Adam,” helped solidify Whitman’s reputation as a risqué or—in many readers’ eyes—obscene poet. The “Enfans d’Adam” poems were meant to act as a counterpart to the “Calamus” cluster by focusing on love between men and women. Whitman was aesthetically committed to them even when they strained his relationship with his “master,” Emerson, after he refused Emerson’s advice to excise the most controversial poems. A writer for the Westminster Review that year specifically invoked Emerson, in fact, in his moral condemnation of Whitman:
Mr. Emerson has much to answer for, and will in reputation dearly pay for the fervid encomium with which he introduced the Author to the American public. That to the public defence of polygamy and slavery, should now be added that of the emancipation of the flesh, is an indication of a moral disorganization in the States, which is of every evil promise. That a drunken Helot should display himself without shame in the market place, speaks sad reproach to the public that does not scourge him back to his cellar.
Poems like the ones in “Enfans d’Adam” helped spread Whitman’s notoriety: even as his books were selling, the press buzzed with striking condemnations. As far away as London reviewers lashed out at Whitman. In July a writer for the Literary Gazette began his review: “Not the least surprising thing about this book is its title. Had it been called ‘Stenches from the Sewer,’ ‘Garbage from the Gutter,’ or ‘Squeals from the Sty,’ we could have discerned the application.” He argued that “throughout the work there is a tone of consistent impurity which reaches its climax in some compositions entitled Enfans d'Adam,’” and concluded: “We say… that of all the writers we have ever perused, Mr. Walt Whitman is the most silly, the most blasphemous, and the most disgusting; if we can think of any stronger epithets, we will print them in a second edition.”

Indignation blazed on both sides: critics seized the opportunity to defend public virtue, and Whitman found the outcry evidence of the slack and wan in the culture he hoped to invigorate. A reviewer for the Saturday Press, probably the editor but possibly Whitman himself, wrote in May of that year, “Walt Whitman, who presents himself as the Poet of the American Republic in the Present Age… refuses to confine and cripple himself within the laws of what to him is inefficient art.” And, “The intellectual attitude expressed in these Leaves of Grass, is grand with the grandeur of independent strength, and beautiful with the beauty of serene repose. It is the attitude of a proud, noble, vigorous life”—even if he did, perhaps, say so himself.

The 1867 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1867
Seven years passed until Whitman issued another edition of Leaves. Though dated 1867, the edition first appeared in the fall of 1866, sold for three dollars, and was published by William E. Chapin, who would reissue it twice in 1868. It is not clear exactly how many copies were printed, but the fourth edition was not as successful as the third.@
The intervening years were transformational for both Whitman and Leaves of Grass: the nation fought the Civil War in the interim, and it left an indelible mark on the poet and his evolving artistry. Though no new edition of Leaves of Grass had emerged during the war, these years were not devoid of poetic production. Since the appearance of the 1860 edition, Whitman had published five poems in periodicals: “Errand-Bearers (16th, 6th Month, Year 84 of The States)” in June, 1860 in the New York Times; “Beat! Beat! Drums!” in September, 1861 in the Boston Daily Evening Transcript; “Little Bells Last Night” in October, 1861 in the New York Leader; and “Old Ireland” in November, 1861 in the same newspaper. He published no poetry during the rest of the war; then in November of 1865 “O Captain! My Captain!” appeared in the Saturday Press. Each of these poems was overtly political. All but “Old Ireland,” which addresses immigration, were explicitly about the War (though it was only looming at the time of publication of most of them), and all were folded into the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass (“Little Bells Last Night” as “I Heard You, Solemn Sweet Pipes of the Organ”), though their route was indirect. All of them came to Leaves of Grass via Drum-Taps, which Whitman published in 1865 and annexed into Leaves of Grass in 1867.

The publication history of one of these poems, “O Captain! My Captain,” demonstrates Whitman’s understanding of the mid-nineteenth century literary marketplace, and his ability to use that understanding in the service of Leaves of Grass. “O Captain!” is a curiosity, in that it is a very unwhitmanlike Whitman poem: saccharine, allegorical, rhyming, and metrically strict. In 1865, when it first appeared, this poem seemed to dismiss the poetics that Whitman had been cultivating for over a decade. Indeed, when read within Leaves of Grass, where he eventually incorporated it, it is to many contemporary readers a blemish on the aesthetic of the rest of the book. Whitman published “O Captain” in the Saturday Press just as he was releasing Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum-Taps, which contained the poem. In keeping with Whitman’s history of clever public relations maneuvers, the poem essentially functioned as a “teaser,” however misleading, for Drum-Taps.

Whitman published the poem in a Northern newspaper only a few months after both the end of the War and the assassination of Lincoln. The editor of the Saturday Press, the bohemian Henry Clapp, Jr., had been a great promoter of Whitman for years, and had already published “A Child’s Reminiscence” and “You and Me To-Day.” The readers of this “Northern slang-whanging organ,” as a Southern editor called it,@ were likely reeling from recent events much as “O Captain”’s narrator was, and were primed for the poem. Whitman probably concluded that a traditional, formal poem like “O Captain” would be very effective with a Northern audience mourning Lincoln’s death, and that it might, in fact, attract a wider, traditionalist audience to his poetry.

Earlier in 1865, Whitman had begun publishing his collection of war verse, Drum-Taps, but had postponed publication after Lincoln’s assassination until he had time to incorporate a sequel honoring the president. Two months later, in June of 1865, Whitman was fired from his job with the Indian Bureau when his boss, James Harlan, snooped through Whitman’s desk and found his marked-up copy of the 1860 edition, which Harlan deemed obscene. Whitman’s reputation took a blow, and prompted, among other things, the publication of William Douglas O’Connor’s vindication, The Good Gray Poet. By this point, Whitman’s notoriety exceeded his readership. So, when, a few months later, Whitman published “O Captain” in the Saturday Press, it was likely his savvy more than his poetics that inspired him to give a Northern, mourning audience—perhaps skeptical of him but eager to make sense of the tumult around them—a poem that they would find ideologically and aesthetically satisfactory. Ed Folsom has noted that Whitman sometimes turned to conventional poetics during times of political upheaval, as in his “Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," but it seems that this shifting was not at all automatic, but instead was Whitman’s deliberate making of a salve for his ailing country.
Draft of "O Captain!"
Library of Congress
This view is corroborated by an early manuscript of “O Captain!” held in the Library of Congress. This early draft, written sometime between Lincoln’s assassination in April and the publication of “O Captain!” in the fall, shows Whitman’s earlier intent to write the poem in free verse. Before its appearance in Drum-Taps and the Saturday Press, though, something changed his mind, and the manuscript shows Whitman’s alterations of the free verse into rhyme. Sometime soon after his first conception of the poem, then, Whitman thought a conventional rhyme-scheme would better serve his purposes than his more controversial style.
If it was, in fact, Whitman’s intention to redeem his reputation and build a wider audience for his poetry through the publication of the conventional “O Captain,” his plan worked. Three months after its appearance in the Saturday Press, a reviewer for the Boston Commonwealth wrote, “this displaced and slighted poet has written the most touching dirge for Abraham Lincoln of all that have appeared” before quoting it in its entirety. “O Captain! My Captain!” soon became Whitman’s most anthologized poem and perhaps his most famous poem, to Whitman’s eventual chagrin. In 1889, he told his friend, Horace Traubel, “It’s My Captain again: always My Captain: the school readers have got along as far as that! My God! When will they listen to me for whole and good?” Whitman had created a monster.

But the poem had, as he apparently hoped, attracted readers to Leaves of Grass. Before the publication of “O Captain” in 1865, a few anthologies of Civil War verse were printed, and none included any of Whitman’s poems, even though he had published two war poems in 1861. Whitman was not included in these collections until “O Captain” earned him a wide audience, buttressed his reputation, and retroactively called attention to his earlier war poems. In fact, in the decade preceding the publication of “O Captain,” Whitman was excerpted in only one book, as the preface to a novel titled Abbie Nott and Other Knots. In the decade following “O Captain,” he was included in eleven collections. No Whitman war poems were apparently anthologized before the publication of “O Captain,” and “O Captain” is by far the most anthologized of his war poems, usually present in any early anthology that holds any other of the war poems. This suggests that specifically this poem reeled readers in, even if it kept them from listening to Whitman “for whole and good.” The strategy was so successful that for the rest of his career Whitman would continue to publish poems of popular interest in periodicals between editions.

The 1867 edition raises further problems for defining Leaves of Grass, since only six new poems were incorporated into this edition of Leaves of Grass proper, and the rest of the new poems were from “Songs Before Parting,” Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum Taps, which were sewn wholesale into the book. The 1867 Leaves was actually four publications with four different paginations sewn into one cover.

Even counting the books that comprise the 1867 is problematic. One of these books, “Songs Before Parting,” was a short “coda”—only thirty-six pages long—of poems that spoke to nationhood, cannibalized from the 1860 Leaves of Grass.@ To call “Songs Before Parting” a separate book is accurate insofar as it is titled as such and follows its own pagination; yet since the poems are lifted and revised from the previous edition of Leaves, and since the “book” only exists within Leaves of Grass, it does not, in another view, seem to be a book any more than other clusters that mutate from edition to edition. To further complicate matters, the subsequent reissues in 1868 did not include all four of these books: the first reissue included only Leaves of Grass and “Songs Before Parting,” and the second reissue only included Leaves of Grass.

As a book, the 1867 edition is confused and wildly varied. It is chaotically organized, and scholars have argued that its chaos—its varied fonts, its containment of different texts thrust together—mimic the social and political disorganization of the United States at the time.@ The instability present in the 1867 edition would never quite leave Leaves of Grass, and for the next several years at least, Whitman would seem much less comfortable in his plans for the book.

The 1871-1872 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1871
Whitman finished the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in late 1870 (which is when it is copyrighted), but the first issue is dated 1871. He published the volume through the New York firm of J.S. Redfield, and it quickly went through a second issue in the summer of 1871. In 1872, the edition was reprinted with a new title page dated 1872; this edition included tipped-in annexes bound into the volume.@ As Gay Wilson Allen has argued, the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass is more significant for the shifts in Whitman’s thinking that it evidences than for the new poetry it contains.@
The 1871-72 edition was put out in significantly different forms: one contained only Leaves of Grass (1871), one added Passage to India (1871), and a third (1872) added to the second the pamphlet “After All, Not to Create Only” (later known as “Song of the Exposition”). Most significant to Whitman scholarship, though, is Passage to India. In 1871, when the fifth edition was first issued, Whitman had moved almost one third of the poems from the previous edition of Leaves of Grass to Passage to India, which contained a total of 75 poems, 50 of which were recycled.

Also of significance to the 1871-72 edition, most of the poems that had been annexed in the previous edition, Drum Taps and Sequel to Drum Taps and “Songs Before Parting,” were fully integrated into either Leaves of Grass proper or the Passage to India annex in 1871. The Civil War had altered the cluster structure of the new edition: Whitman added three clusters, “Drum Taps,” “Marches Now the War Is Over,” and “Bathed in War’s Perfume,” to address the Civil War and hold the integrated Drum Taps poems.@

Although the fifth edition did not receive much critical attention, Whitman had, within its pages, fundamentally altered the plan for Leaves of Grass: he conceived of the two books, Leaves of Grass and Passage to India, as complementary texts that would sever the material and spiritual strands of his work. With the fifth edition, Whitman viewed Leaves of Grass as essentially complete, and saw himself as embarking on a new, more mystical project. Allen writes that in the fifth edition, “Leaves of Grass comes to a great climax, and probably what Walt Whitman intended to be the end of this book and the beginning of a new one…”@ It is important to note that this new project was not entirely new—it involved, first and foremost, a reshaping of Leaves by culling fifty poems from its pages. Whitman himself notes his plan in his introduction to the 1876 reissue of the fifth edition:
It was originally my intention, after chanting in “Leaves of Grass” the songs of the body and existence, to then compose a further, equally needed volume, based on those convictions of perpetuity and conservation which, enveloping all precedents, make the unseen soul govern absolutely at last… But the full construction of such a work is beyond my powers, and must remain for some bard in the future.@
By the time Whitman was tipping Passage to India into the 1871-72 edition, he had already scrapped this scenario, and had returned to his original practice of incorporating almost all of his poetry into Leaves of Grass. Yet his temporary plan to separate the volumes shows that Whitman’s vision for his work was not static.
Whitman reissued the 1871-72 edition in 1876, and called the reissue the Centennial Edition, which he viewed “partly as my contribution and outpouring to celebrate, in some sort, the feature of the time, the first centennial of our New World nationality—and then as chyle and nutriment to that moral, indissoluble union…”@ This volume contained Leaves of Grass and some new intercalated poems, “As in a Swoon,” “The Beauty of the Ship,” “When the Full-Grown Poet Came,” and “After an Interval.” It was issued in different forms, the most striking of which was sold with Two Rivulets, where he had moved Passage to India and some prose work. The set was sold as “Walt Whitman’s Complete Works” for $10.@ Clearly, even at this point, Whitman was still tinkering with how and if he should divide up Leaves.

Since the 1867 edition, Whitman had again been sending poems out to periodicals and folding them back into the pages of Leaves of Grass, though this batch took rather circuitous routes. “A Carol of Harvest for 1867” appeared in the Galaxy in September of 1867, and was brought into Passage to India—and therefore some copies of Leaves of Grass—in 1871. “Proud Music of the Sea Storm” was published in the February, 1869 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, after Emerson pulled some strings with the editor.@ The Atlantic published poems anonymously, and Whitman himself stated anonymously in the Washington Star in January, “The Atlantic for February contains a long poem from his sturdy pen, and one of the very best, to our notion, that he has yet written."@ Whitman was, it seems, using anonymity to claim credit for his prestigious publication. It, too, would appear in Passage to India.

Later that year, in December, Whitman published one of his less successful poems, “The Singer in the Prison,” in the Saturday Evening Visitor. In January of 1870, “Brother of All With Generous Hand,” later “Outlines for a Tomb,” appeared in the Galaxy. Both of these poems were occasional, the first commemorating the concert of a singer in Sing Sing Prison, and the second the death of a philanthropist. Publishing these poems in periodicals allowed them to be read at an appropriate time by a wide audience before they were subsumed into the pages of his more enduring project. That year, Whitman published one more poem in the Galaxy, “Warble for Lilac-Time,” which would join the other periodical publications from this time period in Passage to India.

The 1881-1882 Edition

Leaves of Grass, 1881-1882
In the ten years between the 1871-72 and 1881-82 editions, Whitman dramatically increased his rate of publishing poems in periodicals. Twenty-six appeared in the decade since the fifth edition. Several of these poems were occasional: “The Fair of the American Institute” (New York Evening Post, September 1871); “As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free” (New York Herald, June 1872; incorporated into the 1876 reissue); “Nay, Tell Me Not To-day the Publish'd Shame: Winter of 1873, Congress in Session” (New York Daily Graphic, March 1873); “Spain 1873-74” (New York Daily Graphic, March 1873); “A Kiss to the Bride: Marriage of Nelly Grant” (New York Daily Graphic, May 1874); “A Death Sonnet for Custer” (New York Daily Tribune, June 1876); “What Best I See in Thee” (Philadelphia Press, December 1879); and “The Sobbing of the Bells” (Boston Daily Globe, September 1881). By this point in his career, Whitman was deftly and frequently using periodicals as a way to give his poetry and himself an ongoing public relevance beyond the pages of Leaves of Grass.
In April of 1881, Whitman was notified that the Boston publisher James R. Osgood was interested in publishing Leaves of Grass.@ This offer was fairly prestigious: Osgood was the publisher of authors such as William Dean Howells and Mark Twain.@ Whitman pushed a hard bargain, and negotiated to receive 25 cents on every two-dollar copy sold. Whitman went to Boston to oversee the printing of his book, and it hit the shelves in October of 1881. The book did well, and while Whitman characteristically exaggerated the numbers—claiming 3000 were published when 1600 were—he was experiencing reasonable financial success with this edition, and received a check for over four hundred dollars in April of 1882 as payment for the first issues. Meanwhile, the edition was also selling well in Britain.@

In March of that year, the Boston district attorney deemed the edition obscene, and demanded that it be withdrawn. Initially, Whitman agree to modify the book in order to keep it in print, but he was not willing to excise entire poems, which is what the district attorney would have found satisfactory. The publisher balked at publishing the book, but they did, fortunately, hand over all the plates and leftover unbound copies to Whitman, along with a hundred dollars’ compensation.@

Whitman was not long in need of a publisher. David McKay, who worked for the Phildelphia company Rees Welsh, wrote Whitman three weeks after Osgood handed over the plates. Whitman asked for even higher royalties than Osgood had given him, since Rees Welsh would be using plates that were now his: the firm agreed to pay Whitman thirty-five cents a copy and to give him space to work in their store.@

According to Whitman, Rees Welsh was careful at first, printing a conservative 1000 copies, since the firm did not know how consumers would respond to a book deemed obscene. Perhaps unsurprisingly, consumers reacted by buying out all 1000 copies in only two days. The book quickly went through several printings, and by December had sold almost 5,000 copies.@

Late in 1882, David McKay bought out many of the Rees Welsh titles, including Leaves of Grass. McKay was committed to the continued publication of Leaves, and reprinted it several times before the significant reissue of 1891-92. In fact, in the decade after Osgood relinquished the book, Rees Welsh and later McKay sold over 6,000 copies of Leaves of Grass, and paid Whitman $2,244.90.@ Whitman’s book had not become less controversial in the years since its 1855 debut, but it certainly had become more lucrative since that first edition that Whitman paid for himself.

The 1881-82 edition did not contain a strikingly large number of new poems, but it did significantly reorder older poems, and, importantly, it definitively brought back together the Leaves of Grass and Passage to India poems that Whitman separated, then, on second thought, physically yoked a decade before. This edition enlarged older clusters, especially “Inscriptions” and “Drum-Taps,” and added four new ones: “By the Roadside,” “Autumn Rivulets,” “Birds of Passage,” and “From Noon to Starry Night.”@ Many of the new poems in the final edition were short and added little to the overall scope of the project. As Allen has noted, and as Whitman’s periodical poetry evidences, as Whitman got older he turned increasingly to poems based on “borrowed observations, journalistic articles, and events in the day’s news."@ The poems new to this edition are largely such poems.

Whitman significantly shifted the poems in this final edition, and critics have posited various and often contradictory theories trying to make sense of the rearrangement. Allen, who offers a detailed description of the ordering of the book, notes persuasively that the final edition of Leaves does not have a consistent, overarching organizational structure, but that individual clusters and orderings have their own internal logics, even if they at times fail.@ Whitman himself wrote in 1886, “…‘Leaves of Grass’ is, or seeks to be, simply a faithful and doubtless self-will’d record. In the midst of all, it gives one man’s—the author’s—identity, ardors, observations, faiths, and thoughts…”@ Starting from Whitman’s own description, critics have looked for ways in which the final ordering of Leaves is autobiographical, and Allen ultimately concludes that “this is a poetic record, not objective history or prosaic autobiography.”

Indeed, while resisting chronological schemas, the 1881 ordering of Leaves of Grass was the one that the poet was most content with. When the book was reprinted in 1891, he made no major changes, except to add annexes. Whitman’s health was rapidly failing, and he was aware, as he had been for some time, that he had limited opportunity to complete his project. He had published dozens of poems in periodicals during the last ten years, helping him to shape the annexes that he would add to the 1881 edition: “November Boughs” (1888), including its famous prose preface, “A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads,” and “Good-Bye My Fancy” (1891). But he chose to fully integrate none of these into the edition that he had reordered conclusively ten years before.

After the copyright notices in the 1891 edition, Whitman made his wishes regarding Leaves of Grass clear:
As there are now several editions of L. of G., different texts and dates, I wish to say that I prefer and recommend this present one, complete, for future printing, if there should be any; a copy and fac-simile, indeed, of the text of these 438 pages.
Whitman, a consummate printer to the end, was still giving instructions for the publication of his work. As previously noted, publishers have largely honored his request that the deathbed edition be considered authoritative. But if we are to take to heart Whitman’s life project, and believe his claim that “This is no book,/ Who touches this, touches a man,” we can not so readily dismiss the five earlier editions and countless permutations of this master work: surely the many younger Whitmans that the book has recorded—the anonymous Whitman of 1855, the Whitman reeling from the Civil War hospitals—are of no less interest than the sagacious Whitman at the end of his life.

Appendix: Poems by Edition @

For each edition, each new poem is listed on the left by the title of its debut in Leaves of Grass. On the right, is the title it ultimately received. Unless a date is otherwise noted in brackets, the titles on the right are from the 1881-82 edition. In several cases, the beginning of the poem is given in brackets after the title to distinguish it from other poems with the same title.

1855 Poems

 1855 Title ? Final Title
  • Leaves of Grass [I celebrate myself]  ? Song of Myself
  • Leaves of Grass [Come closer to me] ? A Song for Occupations
  • Leaves of Grass [To think of time] ?To Think of Time
  • Leaves of Grass [I wander all night in my vision] ?The Sleepers
  • Leaves of Grass [The bodies of men and women engirth me] ?I Sing the Body Electric
  • Leaves of Grass [Sauntering the pavement or riding the country byroad here then are faces] ? Faces
  • [A young man came to me with a message from his brother] ? Song of the Answerer; Now List to My Morning’s Romanza [71]; The Indications [71]
  • [Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair] ? Europe, the 72d and 73d Years of These States
  • [Clear the air there Jonathan] ? A Boston Ballad (1854)
  • [There was a child went forth every day] ?There Was a Child Went Forth
  • [Who learns my lesson complete] ?Who Learns My Lesson Complete?
  • [Great are the myths] ? Great Are the Myths [71]; Youth, Day, Old Age and Night

1856 Poems

1856 Title ? Final Title
  • Broad-Axe Poem ? Song of the Broad-Axe
  • Bunch Poem ? Spontaneous Me
  • Clef Poem ? On the Beach at Night Alone
  • Faith Poem ? Assurances
  • Liberty Poem for Asia, Africa, Europe, America, Australia, Cuba, and The Archipelogoes of the Sea ? To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire
  • Poem of the Heart of the Son of Manhattan Island ? Excelsior
  • Poem of the Last Explanation of Prudence ? Song of Prudence
  • A Poem of Many in One ? By Blue Ontario’s Shore
  • Poem of Perfect Miracles ? Miracles
  • Poem of Procreation ? A Woman Waits for Me
  • Poem of the Propositions of Nakedness ? Respondez! [71]; Reversals; Transpositions
  • A Poem of Remembrances for a Girl or a Boy of These States ? Chants Democratic 6 [60]; Think of the Soul
  • Poem of the Road ? Song of the Open Road
  • Poem of the Sayers of the Words of the Earth ?Song of the Answerer; Song of the Rolling Earth
  • Poem of Salutation ? Salut Au Monde!
  • Poem of Wonder at the Resurrection of the Wheat ? This Compost
  • Poem of Women ? Unfolded Out of the Folds
  • Poem of You, Whoever You Are ?To You [Whoever you are]
  • Sun-Down Poem ? Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

1860 Poems

1860 Title ? Final Title
  • Apostroph ? Leaves of Grass 1 [67]; O Sun of Real Peace [71]
  • Beginners ? Beginners
  • Calamus 1 ? In Paths Untrodden
  • Calamus 2 ? Scented Herbage of My Breast
  • Calamus 3 ? Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
  • Calamus 4 ? These I Singing in Spring
  • Calamus 5 ? Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice; For You O Democracy
  • Calamus 6 ? Not Heaving from My Ribb’d Breast Only
  • Calamus 7 ? Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances
  • Calamus 8 ? [Not continued]
  • Calamus 9 ? [Not continued]
  • Calamus 10 ? Recorders Ages Hence
  • Calamus 11 ? When I Heard at the Close of Day
  • Calamus 12 ? Are You the New Person Drawn Toward Me?
  • Calamus 13 ? Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone
  • Calamus 14 ? Not Heat Flames Up and Consumes
  • Calamus 15 ? Trickle Drops
  • Calamus 16 ? [Not continued]
  • Calamus 17 ? Of Him I Love Day and Night
  • Calamus 18 ? City of Orgies
  • Calamus 19 ? Behold This Swarthy Face
  • Calamus 20 ? I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing
  • Calamus 21 ? That Music Always Round Me
  • Calamus 22 ? To a Stranger
  • Calamus 23 ? This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful
  • Calamus 24 ? I Hear it Was Charged Against Me
  • Calamus 25 ? The Prairie-Grass Dividing
  • Calamus 26 ? We Two Boys Together Clinging
  • Calamus 27 ? O Living Always, Always Dying
  • Calamus 28 ? When I Peruse the Conquer’d Fame
  • Calamus 29 ? A Glimpse
  • Calamus 30 ? A Promise to California
  • Calamus 31 ? What Ship Puzzled at Sea; What Place Is Besieged?
  • Calamus 32 ? What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand?
  • Calamus 33 ? No Labor-Saving Machine
  • Calamus 34 ? I Dream’d in a Dream
  • Calamus 35 ? To the East and to the West
  • Calamus 36 ? Earth, My Likeness
  • Calamus 37 ? A Leaf for Hand in Hand
  • Calamus 38 ? Fast-Anchor’d Eternal O Love!
  • Calamus 39 ? Sometimes with One I Love
  • Calamus 40 ? That Shadow My Likeness
  • Calamus 41 ? Among the Multitude
  • Calamus 42 ? To a Western Boy
  • Calamus 43 ? O You Whom I Often and Silently Come
  • Calamus 44 ? Here the Frailest Leaves of Me
  • Calamus 45 ? Full of Life Now
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 4 ? Our Old Feuillage
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 7 ? With Antecedents
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 8 ? Song at Sunset
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 9 ? Thoughts [Of these years I sing]
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 10 ? To a Historian
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 11 ? Thoughts [Of these years I sing]
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 12 ? Vocalism
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 13 ? Laws for Creations
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 14 ? Poets to Come
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 16 ? Mediums
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 17 ? On Journeys through the States
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 18 ? Me Imperturbe
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 19 ? I Was Looking a Long While
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 20 ? I Hear America Singing
  • Chants Democratic and Native American 21 ? As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days
  • Enfans D’Adam 1 ? To the Garden the World
  • Enfans D’Adam 2 ? From Pent-Up Aching Rivers
  • Enfans D’Adam 6 ? One Hour to Madness and Joy
  • Enfans D’Adam 7 ? We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d
  • Enfans D’Adam 8 ? Native Moments
  • Enfans D’Adam 9 ? Once I Pass’d through a Populous City
  • Enfans D’Adam 10 ? Facing West from California’s Shores
  • Enfans D’Adam 11 ? [Not continued]
  • Enfans D’Adam 12 ? Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals
  • Enfans D’Adam 13 ? O Hymen! O Hymenee!
  • Enfans D’Adam 14 ? I Am He that Aches with Love
  • Enfans D’Adam 15 ? As Adam Early in the Morning
  • France, the 18th Year of These States ? France, the 18th Year of These States
  • A Hand-Mirror ? A Hand-Mirror
  • Kosmos ? Kosmos
  • Leaves of Grass 1 ? As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life
  • Leaves of Grass 10 ? Myself and Mine
  • Leaves of Grass 13 ? You Felons on Trial in Courts
  • Leaves of Grass 15 ? Night on the Prairies
  • Leaves of Grass 16 ? The World Below the Brine
  • Leaves of Grass 17 ? I Sit and Look Out
  • Leaves of Grass 18 ? All Is Truth
  • Leaves of Grass 19 ? Germs
  • Leaves of Grass 20 ? [Not continued]
  • Leaves of Grass 22 ? What Am I After All
  • Leaves of Grass 23 ? Locations and Times
  • Leaves of Grass 24 ? To the Reader at Parting [71]
  • Longings for Home ? O Magnet-South
  • Mannahatta ? Mannahatta
  • Perfections ? Perfections
  • Poem of Joys ? A Song of Joys
  • Proto-Leaf ? Starting from Paumanok
  • Savantism ? Savantism
  • Says ? Suggestions [71]
  • So Long! ? So Long!
  • Tests ? Tests
  • Thought [Of public opinion] ? Thoughts [Of public opinion]
  • Thoughts 1 ? Thoughts 1 [Of the visages of things][67]
  • Thoughts 2 ? Thoughts [Of ownership]
  • Thoughts 3 ? Thought [Of persons arrived at high positions]
  • Thoughts 4 ? Thoughts [Of Justice--]; Thoughts [Of Ownership--]; Thought [Of Equality--]
  • Thoughts 5 ? Thought [As I sit with others at a great feast]
  • Thoughts 6 ? Thought [Of what I write from myself] [71]
  • Thoughts 7 ? Thought [Of obedience, faith, adhesiveness]
  • To a Cantatrice ? To a Certain Cantatrice
  • To a Common Prostitute ? To a Common Prostitute
  • To a President ? To a President
  • To a Pupil ? To a Pupil
  • To Him That Was Crucified ? To Him That Was Crucified
  • To My Soul ? As the Time Draws Nigh
  • To Old Age ? To Old Age
  • To One Shortly to Die ? To One Shortly to Die
  • To Other Lands ? To Foreign Lands
  • To Rich Givers ? To Rich Givers
  • To the States, To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad ? To the States, To Identify the 16th, 17th, or 18th Presidentiad
  • Unnamed Lands ? Unnamed Lands
  • Walt Whitman’s Caution ? To the States
  • A Word Out of the Sea ? Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
  • Debris ? Stronger Lessons; Yet, Yet Ye Downcast Hours; Offerings; Visor’d; Beautiful Women; Not the Pilot; As if a Phantom Caress’d Me; Debris [He is wisest who has the most caution] [67]; Debris [Any thing is as good as established] [67]; Leaflets [67]

1867 Poems

1867 Title ? Final Title
  • Inscription ? Small the Theme of My Chant; One’s-Self I Sing
  • The Runner ? The Runner
  • Leaves of Grass 2 ? Tears
  • Leaves of Grass 3 ? Aboard at a Ship’s Helm
  • When I Read the Book ? When I Read the Book
  • The City Dead-House ? The City Dead-House
  • Drum-Taps ? First O Songs for a Prelude
  • Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries ? Shut Not Your Doors; As They Draw to a Close
  • Cavalry Crossing a Ford ? Cavalry Crossing a Ford
  • Song of the Banner at Day-Break ? Song of the Banner at Daybreak
  • By the Bivouac's Fitful Flame ? By the Bivouac’s Fitful Flame
  • 1861 ? Eighteen Sixty-One
  • From Paumanok Starting I Fly Like a Bird ? From Paumanok Starting I Fly Like a Bird
  • Beginning My Studies ? Beginning My Studies
  • The Centenarian's Story ? The Centenarian’s Story
  • Pioneers! O Pioneers! ? Pioneers! O Pioneers!
  • Quicksand Years that Whirl Me I Know Not Whither ? Quicksand Years
  • The Dresser ? The Wound-Dresser
  • When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer ? When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
  • Rise O Days from Your Fathomless Deeps ? Rise O Days from Your Fathomless Deeps
  • A Child's Amaze ? A Child’s Amaze
  • Beat! Beat! Drums ? Beat! Beat! Drums!
  • Come Up From the Fields Father ? Come Up from the Fields Father
  • City of Ships ? City of Ships
  • Mother and Babe ? Mother and Babe
  • Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night ? Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night
  • Bathed in War's perfume ? Bathed in War’s Perfume
  • A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown ? A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown
  • Long, Too Long, O Land ? Long, Too Long America
  • A Sight in Camp in the Day-Break Grey and Dim ? A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
  • A Farm Picture ? A Farm Picture
  • Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun ? Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun
  • Did You Ask Dulcet Rhymes from Me ? To a Certain Civilian
  • Year of Meteors ? Year of Meteors
  • The Torch ? The Torch
  • Years of the Unperform'd ? Years of the Modern
  • Year that Trembled and Reel'd Beneath Me ? Year that Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me
  • The Veteran's Vision ? The Artilleryman’s Vision
  • O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy ? O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy
  • Camps of Green ? Camps of Green
  • As Toilsome I Wander'd Virginia's Woods ? As Toilsome I Wander’d Virginia’s Woods
  • Hymn of Dead Soldiers ? Ashes of Soldiers
  • The Ship ? The Ship Starting
  • A Broadway Pageant ? A Broadway Pageant
  • Flag of Stars, Thick-Sprinkled Bunting ? Thick-Sprinkled Bunting
  • Old Ireland ? Old Ireland
  • Look Down Fair Moon ? Look Down Fair Moon
  • Out of the Rolling Ocean, the Crowd ? Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd
  • World, Take Good Notice ? World Take Good Notice
  • I Saw Old General at Bay ? I Saw Old General at Bay
  • Others May Praise What They Like ? Others May Praise What They Like
  • Solid, Ironical, Rolling Orb ? Solid, Ironical, Rolling Orb [71]
  • Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day ? Hush’d be the Camps To-day
  • Weave in, Weave in, My Hardy Soul ? Weave in, My Hardy Life
  • Turn, O Libertad ? Turn O Libertad
  • Bivonac on a Mountain Side ? Bivouac on a Mountain Side
  • Pensive on Her Dead Gazing, I Heard the Mother of All ? Pensive on Her Dead Gazing
  • Not Youth Pertains to Me ? Not Youth Pertains to Me
(Sequel to Drum-Taps)
  • When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd ? When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd
  • Race of Veterans ? Race of Veterans
  • O Captain! My Captain ? O Captain! My Captain!
  • Spirit Whose Work Is Done ? Spirit Whose Work Is Done
  • Chanting the Square Deific ? Chanting the Square Deific
  • I Heard You, Solemn Sweet Pipes of the Organ ? I Heard You Solemn Sweet Pipes of the Organ
  • Not My Enemies Ever Invade Me ? Not My Enemies Ever Invade Me
  • O Me! O Life ? O Me! O Life!
  • Ah Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky Retreats ? Ah Poverties, Wincings, and Sulky Retreats
  • As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap, Camerado ? As I Lay with My Head in Your Lap Camerado
  • This Day, O Soul ? This Day, O Soul
  • In Clouds Descending, in Midnight Sleep ? Old War-Dreams
  • An Army on the March ? An Army Corps on the March
  • Dirge for Two Veterans ? Dirge for Two Veterans
  • How Solemn, as One by One ? How Solemn, as One by One
  • Lo! Victress on the Peaks ? Lo,Victress on the Peaks
  • Reconciliation ? Reconciliation
  • To the Leaven'd Soil They Trod ? To the Leaven'd Soil They Trod
Note: “Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice,” not listed here, is a reworking of the 1860 Calamus 5. It is the only Drum-Taps poem to be included in LG before 1867.

1871 Poems

1871 Title ?Final Title
  • As I Ponder’d in Silence ? As I Ponder’d in Silence
  • In Cabin’d Ships at Sea ? In Cabin’d Ships at Sea
  • For Him I Sing ? For Him I Sing
  • To Thee, Old Cause! ? To Thee Old Cause
  • The Base of All Metaphysics ? The Base of All Metaphysics
  • Drum-Taps [Aroused and angry] ? [Not continued]
  • Adieu to a Soldier ? Adieu to a Soldier
  • Delicate Cluster ? Delicate Cluster
  • Ethiopia Saluting the Colors ? Ethiopia Saluting the Colors
  • Still Though the One I Sing ? Still Though the One I Sing

(After All, Not to Create Only)
  • After All, Not to Create Only ? Song of the Exposition
(As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free)
  • One Song, America, Before I Go ? Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood
  • Souvenirs of Democracy ? My Legacy
  • As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free ? Thou Mother with They Equal Brood
  • The Mystic Trumpeter ? The Mystic Trumpeter
  • O Star of France ? O Star of France
  • Virginia—The West ? Virginia—The West
  • By Broad Potomac’s Shore ? By Broad Potomac’s Shore

(Passage to India)
  • [Epigraph] ? Gliding o’er All
  • Passage to India ? Passage to India
  • Proud Music of the Storm ? Proud Music of the Storm
  • [Ashes of Soldiers: Epigraph] ? [Not continued]
  • This Dust was Once the Man ? This Dust was Once the Man
  • Whispers of Heavenly Death ? Whispers of Heavenly Death
  • Darest Thou Now, O Soul ? Darest Thou Now O Soul
  • A Noiseless, Patient Spider ? A Noiseless Patient Spider
  • The Last Invocation ? The Last Invocation
  • As I Watch’d the Ploughman Ploughing ? As I Watch’d the Ploughman Ploughing
  • Pensive and Faltering ? Pensive and Faltering
  • On the Beach, at Night ? On the Beach at Night
  • A Carol of Harvest, for 1867 ? The Return of the Heroes
  • The Singer in the Prison ? The Singer in the Prison
  • Warble for Lilac Time ? Warble for Lilac-Time
  • Sparkles from the Wheel ? Sparkles from the Wheel
  • Brother of All, with Generous Hand ? Outlines for a Tomb
  • Gods ? Gods
  • Lessons ? [Not continued]*
  • Now Finale to the Shore ? Now Finale to the Shore
  • Thought ? As They Draw to a Close
  • The Untold Want ? The Untold Want
  • Portals ? Portals
  • These Carols ? These Carols
  • Joy, Shipmate, Joy! ? Joy, Shipmate, Joy!

(1876 Intercalations)
  • [Come, said my soul] ? [Not continued]
  • [As in a Swoon] ? [Not continued in LG; included in 1891 Good-Bye My Fancy]
  • The Beauty of the Ship ? [Not continued]
  • When the Full-Grown Poet Came ? When the Full-Grown Poet Came
  • After an Interval ? [Not continued]
  • To the Man-of-War Bird ? To the Man-of-War Bird
  • A Death Sonnet for Custer ? From Far Dakota’s Cañons
(Two Rivulets)
  • Two Rivulets ? [Not continued]
  • Or from that Sea of Time ? [Not continued]
  • Eidólons ? Eidólons
  • Spain, 1873-‘74 ? Spain, 1873-74
  • Prayer of Columbus ? Prayer of Columbus
  • Out from Behind this Mask ? Out from Behind this Mask
  • To a Locomotive in Winter ? To a Locomotive in Winter
  • The Ox-Tamer ? The Ox-Tamer
  • Wandering at Morn ? Wandering at Morn
  • An Old Man’s Thought of School ? An Old Man’s Thought of School
  • With All Thy Gifts, &c. ? With All Thy Gifts
  • From My Last Years ? [Not continued]
  • In Former Songs ? [Not continued]
  • After the Sea-Ship ? After the Sea-Ship
(Centennial Songs)
  • Song of the Redwood-Tree ? Song of the Redwood-Tree
  • Song of the Universal ? Song of the Universal
  • Song for All Seas, All Ships ? Song for All Seas, All Ships
Note: “Lessons,” new to Passage to India, was not included in copies bound with the 1872 LG.

1881 Poems

1881 Titles
  • Thou Reader
  • Patroling Barnegat
  • The Dalliance of the Eagles
  • Roaming in Thought
  • Hast Never Come to Thee an Hour
  • As Consequent, Etc.
  • Italian Music in Dakota
  • My Picture-Gallery
  • The Prairie States
  • A Paumanok Picture
  • Thou Orb Aloft Full-Dazzling
  • A Riddle Song
  • What Best I See in Thee
  • Spirit That Form’d This Scene
  • A Clear Midnight
  • As at Thy Portals Also Death
  • The Sobbing of the Bells

Deathbed Poems

Post-1881 Annexes Included in the Deathbed Edition

(Sands at Seventy)
  • Mannahatta [My city’s fit and noble name resumed]
  • Paumanok
  • From Montauk Point
  • To Those Who've Fail'd
  • A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine
  • The Bravest Soldiers
  • A Font of Type
  • As I Sit Writing Here
  • My Canary Bird
  • Queries to My Seventieth Year
  • The Wallabout Martyrs
  • The First Dandelion
  • America
  • Memories
  • To-day and Thee
  • After the Dazzle of Day
  • Abraham Lincoln, Born Feb. 12, 1809
  • Out of May's Shows Selected
  • Halcyon Days (Fancies at Navesink)
  • The Pilot in the Mist
  • Had I the Choice
  • You Tides With Ceaseless Swell
  • Last of Ebb, and Daylight Waning
  • And Yet Not You Alone
  • Proudly the Flood Comes In
  • By That Long Scan of Waves
  • Then Last of All
  • Election Day, November, 1884
  • With Husky-Haughty Lips, O Sea
  • The Death of General Grant
  • Red Jacket (from Aloft)
  • Washington's Monument, February, 1885
  • Of That Blithe Throat of Thine
  • Broadway
  • To Get the Final Lilt of Songs
  • Old Salt Kossabone
  • The Dead Tenor
  • Continuities
  • Yonnondio
  • Life
  • "Going Somewhere”
  • True Conquerors
  • The United States to Old World Critics
  • The Calming Thought of All
  • Thanks in Old Age
  • Life and Death
  • The Voice of the Rain
  • Soon Shall the Winter's Foil Be Here
  • While Not the Past Forgetting
  • The Dying Veteran
  • A Prairie Sunset
  • Twenty Years
  • Orange Buds by Mail From Florida
  • Twilight
  • You Lingering Sparse Leaves of Me
  • Not Meagre, Latent Boughs Alone
  • The Dead Emperor
  • As the Greek's Signal Flame
  • The Dismantled Ship
  • Now Precedent Songs, Farewell
  • An Evening Lull
  • Old Age's Lambent Peaks
  • After the Supper and Talk

(Good-Bye My Fancy)
  • [Last droplets of and after spontaneous rain]@
  • Sail Out for Good, Eidòlon Yacht
  • Lingering Last Drops
  • Good-Bye My Fancy
  • On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain
  • My 71st Year
  • Apparitions
  • The Pallid Wreath
  • An Ended Day
  • Old Age's Ship & Crafty Death's
  • To the Pending Year
  • Shakspere-Bacon's Cipher
  • Long, Long Hence
  • Bravo, Paris Exposition!
  • Interpolation
  • Sounds To the Sunset Breeze
  • Old Chants
  • A Christmas Greeting
  • Sounds of the Winter
  • A Twilight Song
  • Osceola
  • A Voice from Death
  • A Persian Lesson
  • The Commonplace
  • "The Rounded Catalogue Divine Complete”
  • Mirages
  • L. of G.'s Purport
  • The Unexpress'd
  • Grand is the Seen
  • Unseen Buds
  • Good-Bye My Fancy!