Grass Leaves Summary

In the field of Universal Poetry, the most emblematic work of the American poet Walt Whitman is known by the name of Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855, even though its complete version is now considered the one edited by the author himself in 1892, after almost four decades of revisions.

Leaves of grass, book-process

In this way, Grass Leaves, in editorial terms, constitutes a true novelty, since it can be defined as a book that was written in front of the reader’s eyes and because of the growth and maturity of its author, so that in it we can basically see the evolution of the poet on the path of life and in the mission of singing to this experience and all the emotions proper to the human condition, which it – life – implies.

In this way, summarizing the editorial history of this work by Walt Whitman, it can be said that Grass Leaves was published in 1855 with only twelve poems, in which one could already see his great enthusiasm for singing to him or celebrating the things of life and being alive.

Later, during the next forty years, and at least on nine occasions, this American poet made corrections to the published poems, adding some other verses, up to the year 1892, in which he would publish his complete version of Grass Leaves, which he would also request to be taken as the real book to which he had led a whole poetic life.

However, even though it is now published in this way, at the request of the author himself, in reality, to have the possibility of reading each of the versions that this book had during the almost forty years that its writing lasted, in reality it offers the reader the faithful and written testimony of the evolution of Whitman’s soul, as well as his vision of the world.

Summary of Leaves of Grass: Singing to Yourself

As for his themes, it can basically be said that – in each of his more than four hundred poems that the book ended up containing – Whitman is given the task of observing and celebrating the world, especially his participation in it, as being of creation.

However, even though for contemporary man this doesn´t suggest a great deal of controversy, one can actually understand from looking at this book under the historical nuance that its publication was actually a great commotion at the centre of the society of its time, where the religious and contemplative theme was viewed with approval, while seeing or talking about oneself was quite disrespectful.

Consequently, by taking this into account, one will be able to understand a little the great revolution that Whitman proposed in each one of his poems, where with great mastery he doesn´t stop praising each and every one of the manifestations of life in the person, that is to say, in Humanity.

In fact, beyond the exaltation to life and the fact of being alive, Whitman emphasized the vehicle that allows with its sense to appreciate the vital experience: the body, which besides being revolutionary, took Whitman’s poetry to the limit of the immoral. In spite of the Criticism, Whitman continued in the elaboration of his great work, in which he constructed a space to raise his voice, on the importance of celebrating the miracle of life.

In this book are some of his most emblematic poems: Song of Myself or the text Oh, Captain! My Captain!, his most famous elegy to American President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated in 1865.

Image: portrait of Walt Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass / Source:

Grass Leaves Summary
Source: Education  
October 26, 2019

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