Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
he appearance of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in a new edition has revived a discussion always imminent when the name of this writer is brought forward, and always more or less acrimonious. Some persons even imagine it obligatory upon them to deny him all merit of poetic endowment, so violent is their revolt against the offensiveness which Mr. Whitman has chosen to make a central and integral point of his literary method. Such critics stultify themselves by the coarseness of view (and sometimes of expression) with which they meet the grossness they condemn. If they can see nothing in this book except indecency and bombastic truisms, the inference must be that their sensibilities are not delicate enough to recognize the fresh, strong, healthy presentation of common things in a way that revivifies them, the generous aspiration, the fine sympathy with man and nature, the buoyant belief in immortality, which are no less characteristic of the author than his mistaken boldness in displaying the carnal side of existence, and his particularity in describing disease or loathsome decay. It would be a waste of time to discuss the question whether or not Mr. Whitman is a poet: abundant authority, both creative and critical, has recorded itself on the affirmative side. Nor is it worth while to debate upon the form he has adopted, which is not the startling novelty which many, including the poet himself, have assumed it to be. The only profitable point of view from which Leaves of Grass can be regarded is one that, while giving distinctness to the serious error of unclean exposure and to the frequent feebleness of form and style which reduce large portions of the work to tedious and helpless prose, leaves our vision clear for the occasional glimpses of beauty that the book discloses. We must also take into account the imagination often informing some one of these rhapsodies as a whole, even when its parts are found to be weak,...
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