Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd
(1) BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION For biographical information on Walt Whitman, please refer to the “Song of Myself” Study Guide, or visit Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitma , a host of other websites, or read the n biographical note on Whitman in Radeljković's “American Topics” (listed underneath in the Recommended Reading list). (2) TEXT OF WORK Read the poem with annotations at: http://www.bartleby.com/142/192.html (3) ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY (includes summary of poem) This 1865 poem is part of a series of pieces written after Lincoln's assassination. While it does not display all the conventions of the form, this is nevertheless considered to be a pastoral elegy: a poem of mourning that makes use of elaborate conventions drawn from the natural world and rustic human society. Virgil is the most prominent classical practitioner of the form; Milton's "Lycidas" and Shelley's "Adonais" are the two bestknown examples in the English tradition. One of the most important features of the pastoral elegy is the depiction of the deceased and the poet who mourns him as shepherds. While the association is not specifically made in this poem, it must surely have been in Whitman's mind as he wrote: Lincoln, in many ways, was the "shepherd" of the American people during wartime, and his loss left the North in the position of a flock without a leader. As in traditional pastoral elegies, nature mourns Lincoln's death in this poem, although it does so in some rather unconventional ways (more on that in a moment). The poem also makes reference to the problems of modern times in its brief, shadowy depictions of Civil War battles. The natural order is contrasted with the human one, and Whitman goes so far as to suggest that those who have died violent deaths in war are actually the lucky ones, since they are now beyond suffering. ... [continues]
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