Walt Whitman (1855). Preface to Leaves of Grass.
Vol. 39, pp. 388-398 of The Harvard Classics
Walt Whitman is the most original and startling of modern poets. An irony of his life is that while he wrote for the contemporary masses, only a limited number of followers appreciated his genius, now universally recognized.
(Walt Whitman born May 31, 1819.)
1 AMERICA does not repel the past or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions … accepts the lesson with calmness … is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms … perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house … perceives that it waits a little while in the door … that it was fittest for its days … that its action has descended to the stalwart and well shaped heir who approaches … and that he shall be fittest for his days.