Walt Whitman, one of the most popular and influential of American poets
I Hear America Singing
- I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
- Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
- The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
- The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
- The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
- The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
- The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
- The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
- Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
- The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
- Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
- When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
- When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
- When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
- When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
- How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
- Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
- In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
- Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
The Ship Starting
- Lo, the unbounded sea,
- On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails.
- The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately below emulous waves
- press forward,
- They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.
Walt Whitman (1819–1882) is one of the most popular and influential of American poets and considered in many ways to be the embodiment of American poetic ideals. Serving as a bridge to the earlier transcendentalist writers, such as Emerson and Thoreau, and the new realists, including Stephen Crane and William Dean Howells, Whitman employed almost exclusively free verse and is often considered its progenitor. At once ostensibly sensual and preoccupied with spiritual realities, Whitman’s greatest work, the “epic-in-lyric” Leaves of Grass, includes many long and large poems such as “I Sing the Body Electric,” but also shorter snapshots in verse such as the above poems.