Walter Whitman was an American poet and a
son of Long Island. His collection of poems,
"Leaves Of Grass," is considered one of the
world's major literary works.

Whitman was a true patriot. His poems sing of
the praises of the United States of America and
the cause of democracy. The poet's love of his
country grew from his faith that Americans might
reach new worldly and spiritual heights. Whitman
wrote: "The chief reason for the being of the
United States of America is to bring about the
common good will of all mankind, the solidarity
of the world."

Whitman began working on "Leaves of Grass" in
1848. This collection of poetry was so unusual
that no publisher would publish it. In 1855, he
published it himself. The edition contained only
12 poems. In the preface, Whitman said: "The
United States themselves are essentially the
greatest poem." Between 1855 and his death,
Whitman published several revised and
enlarged editions of his book. He believed that
"Leaves of Grass" had grown with his own
emotional and intellectual development.

" Song of Myself, " is considered Whitman's
greatest. It is a lyric poem told through the joyful
experiences of the narrator. Sometimes the
narrator,"I," is the poet himself. In other
passages, "I" speaks for the human race, the
universe, or a specific character being
dramatized. Like all Whitman's major poems,
"Song of Myself " contains symbols. For
example, in the poem he describes grass as a
symbol of life "the babe of vegetation," "the
handkerchief of the Lord."

Whitman wrote "When Lilacs Last in the
Dooryard Bloom'd" on the death of Abraham
Lincoln. Lincoln died in April, springtime-a time
of rebirth in nature. Whitman says that each
spring the blooming lilac will remind him not only
of the death of Lincoln, but also of the eternal
return to life.

"O Captain! My Captain!," another poem on
Lincoln's death, is Whitman's most popular
poem, but differs from his others in rhyme and
rhythm.

Whitman wrote in a form similar to
"thought-rhythm." This form is found in Old
Testament poetry. It is also found in sacred
books of India, such as the Bhagavad-Gita,
which Whitman knew in translation. The rhythm of
his lines suggests the rise and fall of the sea he
loved so much. This structure is better suited to
expressing emotion than to logical discussion. In
general, Whitman's poetry is idealistic and
romantic.