Whitman's earliest attempt to absorb the Civil War into leaves of grass.
In the manuscript pictured on the back cover, Whitman has written in blue pencil, "Drum-Taps / comes in here," under which he has noted in a different pencil, "(after page 404 / and before page 405)." Though we cannot date this manuscript precisely, the page numbers Whitman lists provide a major clue. These notations cannot refer to the 1867 edition, which contains only 338 pages. More likely, Whitman's note points to the third edition of Leaves of Grass published in 1860; it is conceivable that this manuscript page was once used as a place-holder in his personal "Blue Book" copy of the 1860 edition, where similar blue penciling appears.
By identifying the 1860 edition as the most plausible reference in this manuscript, we learn that Whitman may have imagined fully integrating his Civil War verse within Leaves of Grass as early as 1865, much earlier than the appended Drum-Taps of 1867 suggests. Whitman appears to be contemplating inserting Drum-Taps after the poem "Mannahatta" (LG 1860, 404-405) and before "France, The 18th Year of These States" (LG 1860, 406-407). When the "Drum-Taps" cluster first appears in 1871, it "comes in" near the same spot Whitman flags in this manuscript, directly following "To the States" (LG 1860, 400-401) and "To a President" (LG 1860, 402). Although most former Drum-Taps poems appear earlier in the 1871 edition, several Civil War poems do appear between "Mannahatta" and "France, The 18th Year of These States," including "Old Ireland," "Solid, Ironical, Rolling Orb," "Bathed in War's Perfume," "Song of the Banner at Day-Break," "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors," "Lo! Victress on the Peaks," "World, Take Good Notice," and "Thick-Sprinkled Bunting." Though Whitman would not characterize Leaves of Grass as "revolving" around "the strange sad war" until 1871, this manuscript offers some of the earliest evidence of his desire to have Leaves of Grass absorb the Civil War even before the poet's first experimentation in 1867.
The University of Iowa
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|Publication:||Walt Whitman Quarterly Review|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2011|
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