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Walt Whitman is the rhythmic apostle of our democracy.
Not only were these two representative types contemporaneous,
but both alike were rugged in nature, begotten of the same native rugged
soil. "Well, he looks like a man," said Lincoln when he first saw Whit-
man. And when Lincoln fell, how magnificently did Whitman sing his
elegy in "Captain, O My Captain". '
i Did you ever transplant yourself on a lovely spring morning from
your comfortable home to the untrodden part of the forest along the
Meramec? How your very soul is enraptured! You are unable to
analyze the charm, yet the charm is undeniably there. So you feel when
you come to Walt Whitman. Whitman can easily contend for first
honors as the genius of American nationality. Our turbulent demo-
cracyg our faith in the future, our huge mass movements, our continen-
tal spirit, our sublime, if unkept nature lies back of Walt Whitman, and
are implied in all his work. As Emerson vividly wrote, "Americans
abroad may now come home, unto us a Man is born !"
Whitman has been accused of silliness and of blasphemy. These
things may be trueg yet, in the sandy wastes of his innumerable lines,
there is a wealth of scattered gold, never sifted out by him, yet gold, un-
mistakable gold. Now and then Whitman incorporates a handy or
high sounding word from some other language. Perhaps he did this to
signify our composite democracy, and to teach that the whole world is
the mother of our country.
Yes, they may be crude, perhaps, but Whitman's rhapsodies are
"diamonds in the rough, virgin gold in unwrought nuggets".
How wonderfully large is Whitman's enthusiasm for mankind! His
scorn for all but real things: his faith and his hope, and his love!
As regards the form of what he writes, Whitman can find no author-
ity superior to himself. There is a very powerful and majestic rhyth-
mical sense throughout his writings, prose and verse, and this rhyth-
mical sense is original and inborn. One feels that although no count-
ing of syllables will reveal the mechanism of his music, the music is
surely there. His rhythm, so often burlesqued, is all of a part with the
man and with his ideas. It is apparently confusedg really it is most
carefully schemed, certainly to a high degree original. It has a great
booming movement or undertone, like the sound of a heavy surf.
Call this poet uncouth, inarticulateg whatever you please that is
least orthodox, yet after all, he is the only one who points out the stuff
of which, perchance, the American literature in the future may be made.
The appearance of such a man as Whitman involves deep world forces
of race and of time. Can we not then safely say that the one mountain
thus far in our literary landscape is Walt Whitman?
-Margaret M. H orchitz.