"O Me! O Life!"

By: Walt Whitman

Poem

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who are more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light,of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew'd,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of teh rest, with the rest me intertwined,

The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?

                                                                   Answer.

That you are here-that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse

Background

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819. He was the second son of walter whitman, a housebuilder. He lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s.

When he was twelve he began to learn the printer's trade, and fell in love with the written word. He was mainly self taught, he would read constantly while becoming acquainted with the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Bible.

He worked as a printer in New York City until a fire in the printing district destroyed the industry. In 1836 when Whitman was 17, he began his career as a teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He taught until 1841, when he started to go towards journalism as a full-time career.

In 1855, He took out a copyright on the first edition of "Leaves of grass," which consisted of twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the volume himself, and sent a copy to Emerson in July of 1855. He released a second edition of the book in 1856, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his lifetime, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more editions of the book.

During the Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a "purged" and "cleansed" life. He worked as a freelance journalist and visited the wounded at New York City-area hospitals. He then traveled to Washington,D.C. in December 1862 to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war.

He struggled to support himself through most of his life. While in Washington, He lived on a clerk's salary, and spent any excess money, including gifts from friends, to buy supplies for the patients he nursed. He also sent money to his widowed mother and an invalid brother. From time to time writers both in the states and in England sent him money so that he could get by.

In his declining years working on additions and revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems and prose, "Good-Bye, My Fancy(David McKay,1891). After his death on march 26, 1892, Whitman was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on a lot in Harleigh Cemetery.

Style

Whitman's poetry is democratic in both its subject matter and its languate. As the great lists that make up a lot of Whitman's poetry show, anything-and everyone-is fair game for a poem. He was concerned with cataloguing the new America he sees growing around him. Just as America is far different politically and practically from its European counterparts, so American poetry distinguish itself from previous models.

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