American poet, Walt Whitman was the first American Romanticism author to write in free-lance poetry. Whitman was not only distinguished as a poet, but according to the Academy of American Poets, was the premier, writer of democracy (Walt 3). Throughout the years, Whitman has been profoundly acknowledged for his works such as Drum Taps and The Leaves of Grass that were written during the Civil War era. Walt Whitman had a unique childhood that lead to a successful adulthood, and finally helped him to innovate American culture as society knows it today.
Whitman’s childhood included various events that contributed to his successful future. On May 31st, 1819, in Long Island, New York, Walt Whitman was born to Walter Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor. He was the second child out of the eight surviving children in the Whitman and Velsor household. In addition, his childhood occurred during the great American Westward Expansion (Whitman). In 1823, Whitman at age three, moved to Brooklyn, New York with his family. However, between 1831 and 1836, Walt’s father took him out of school to help out at home because they needed help keeping their mortgage.
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His first job ever would be working as an office boy in New York City. At age twelve, Whitman learned the printing trade and, fell in love with the written word (Walt 2). While learning the printing trade, he familiarized himself with the Bible, Dante, Homer, and Shakespeare. Sadly, a few years later, a fire broke out in their town and demolished the printing trade in the area (Walt 2). In search of a new job, Whitman at seventeen years of age, became a teacher in a one room schoolhouse where he grew up in New Jersey. While teaching, Whitman started to pursue writing once again.
In his later years, Whitman took up the occupation of writing and publishing. He became most famous for being the first American Romanticism author to incorporate freelance writing into his poetry. Early into adulthood, Whitman stopped teaching for two years and founded the Long Islander Newspaper. Through this, Whitman published his well known works such as O Captain My Captain, and Drum Taps during and after the Civil War era. In 1861, the Civil War began, and with his immediate family having strong political views, his brother immediately joined the Union forces (Home). Tragically, in 1862, his brother was shot in battle by a confederate soldier and became critically injured and ill. Walt was promptly notified about his brother’s injury, and swiftly made his way to the base camp where his sibling was being hospitalized. While visiting his brother, Whitman became familiar with the medical practices , and with quick training, became one of the few male nurses of the Civil War.
While learning the study of nursing, Whitman documented and wrote about his experiences during battle, and watched a myriad of soldiers march to their death in both the Union and Confederate Armies. Two days before the Civil War officially ended, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Then, in 1865, Whitman published O Captain, My Captain, which was dedicated to celebrating Lincoln’s life and to mourn his death. The first line in the poem from Whitman reads: O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done (23). Explain Quote Here. Later after publishing the famous poem, in the 1860’s to early 1870’s, he went on to produce Drum Taps, the sequel of Drum Taps, and Memoranda During the War. Whitman got his inspiration for writing while being on the battle grounds as a nurse in the Civil War. However, before the War began, his first book ever published in 1855 was titled the Leaves of Grass. This collected works originally contained 12 poems, but over time with seven add on additions, grew to over 100’s of articles (Timeline).
Not only was Leaves of Grass inspirational, but it also became extremely controversial due to the underlying themes of sexuality, humanity, nature, and the ideas which advocated for abolition and the abolishment of slavery. In great sadness over his father’s’ death in 1855, he later added poems and essays to the Leaves of Grass that were dedicated to his father through themes of the beauty and hastiness of life (Timeline). Towards the end of Whitman’s life in 1887, he appears on stage in New York to give a lecture on President Lincoln (Timeline). Attendees included a countless amount of famous Americans such as Mark Twain, and other significant authors from the time. Then, in 1890, Whitman’s last edition of the Leaves of Grass was published , and is known today as his Deathbed edition. For, in 1892, Whitman suffered from his second stroke that severely damaged his spine which ultimately led to his death. He was buried in his hometown cemetery in New Jersey, USA. After Walt’s death, the Library of Congress collected most of his valuables and selected works making them the largest holder of his articles/books (Walt 3).
America, not just founded and innovated by the founding fathers, but by its unique literature, modern art, and writing styles, has all been greatly innovated by Walt Whitman. One of his main influences on culture would include that almost every magazine currently being published includes freelance writing of some sort. In the past, when Whitman founded the Long Islander Newspaper, he created the idea of freelance writing and implemented it into the foundation of the paper. After the newspaper successfully sold thousands of copies, other newspapers and magazines started using freelance writing to enhance the sales and repertoire of their publishing companies. Overtime, the style of writing struck and impressed many people.
Presently, Whitman quotes are references in many modern day theatricals such as the television show, Breaking Bad and the all time cult classic, Dead Poets Society. Whitman’s presence in society and culture proves that he is still extremely influential in many categories, not just American literacy. Whitman’s political views involving abolitionist and humanitarian work has influenced and sparked a change in the country’s belief system throughout the decades. Through this, it is easily concluded that Walt Whitman may very well be one of the most intriguing and influential American authors of his time.
In conclusion. Walt Whitman was an inspirational American author during and after his life. Whitman had a unique childhood that ended up leading into a successful education for his future as a freelance writer/poet. Some of Whitman’s most inspiring works include the Leaves of Grass, While Lilacs in the Dooryard Bloom’d, Drum Taps, O Captain, My Captain, and Memoranda During the War. After his death in 1892, his works and inspirational quotes have gone on to inspire modern day literature as well as the modern day lifestyle.
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