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Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition

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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  1,512 ratings  ·  133 reviews
Whitman is today regarded as America's Homer or Dante, and his work the touchstone for literary originality in the New World. In Leaves of Grass, he abandoned the rules of traditional poetry - breaking the standard metred line, discarding the obligatory rhyming scheme, and using the vernacular. Emily Dickinson condemned his sexual and physiological allusions as `disgracefu ...more
Paperback, 145 pages
Published July 10th 1961 by Penguin Classics (first published January 1st 1959)
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Walden by Henry David ThoreauThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanSelf-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo EmersonLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Transcendentalism
3rd out of 98 books — 42 voters
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldArana's Visitor by Julie Rollins
Deep Experiences
21st out of 55 books — 63 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,855)
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Andrew
Jul 30, 2007 Andrew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Literary rapture. I don't know how else I could describe my first experience reading Leaves of Grass. It was pure literary rapture.

I highly recommend Leaves of Grass to everyone - especially those who still believe, or want to believe, in the basic goodness of the American Experiment.

Pick up the slim first edition (Whitman revised and expanded Leaves of Grass throughout his life. The final product, which is what is most often seen on bookshelves, is a bloated, redundant beast.

Read the whole t
...more
Ben Winch
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?.... I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

I'm no expert on Walt Whitman, and given that this poem ('Song of Myself') has been celeb
...more
Rlotz
It is becoming increasingly trendy to chalk up success to practice and hard work. We have the famous 10,000 hours from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and a similar theme from Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, just to name two examples. But it seems to me that some people were just born to do what they did, that no amount of practice could ever have produced something so fresh, original, new, and revolutionary.

Take Montaigne. He invented a new genre (the essay), pioneered a free and easy pro
...more
Peter Landau
This is what I thought the Bible would be like before I read the Bible: overflowing with characters and stories, all told at a sprint, with a shout and such good will that a sour sport as myself could hardly relate. Maximist, generous to a fault, a word-drunk prophet -- the god of this bible is Walt Whitman, and he could care a whit if you find that absurd or egotistical. I haven't felt the rush, pull and command of an energetic poetry like this outside of "Follow the Leader" by Eric B. and Raki ...more
Philip Cartwright
First the pros:

Whitman's free verse is years ahead of its time. I kept having to remind myself that he published this work in 1855. Wordsworth had only been dead for five years, Tennyson and Browning were at the height of their powers and Longfellow was still churning them out. Whitman was an important moderniser.

His verse has tremendous energy. It crackles off the page and I was often swept giddily along by the blizzard of words. Plus, there are some truly striking images to be found. At its be
...more
Sophia
Whitman, man. Whitman.

I think you need to read LoG in an active place, like a busy cafe or over a few trips on the bus, where there's people to see, because otherwise you might not feel his point. He seems to seriously push a sense of interconnectedness, a pantheism; we are all immortal and part of a divine source by being members. In us originates beauty and love and all meaning, and so we are the prime examples.

Leaves of Grass is, in short, a very invigorating set of poems. You feel good read
...more
J.P.
Another title I'm forever dipping into.

There are many editions of LEAVES; the 1892 'deathbed' edition (Whitman was knocking on Heaven's door when he was editing it) is one I've never been able to finish, mainly because it's just so. . .voluminous. Many poems for the ages there, but just as much dead wood, too, which always bogs me down.

This first, 1855 edition---this is my favorite. I call it the rock n' roll edition. Here, you'll find the poems---in their unadulterated, original versions---tha
...more
Chin Jian xiong
My flesh is not a great poem.
But my tongue has bled ink and sparse verses.
My mind embraced the leaves, I loved the taste of bitter grass.
My mind embraced the songs, I silently mouthed a secret chant.
My mind sub vocalized, my mind tasted and chewed and was released.
Yet I have only tasted a thimble's worth.
Yet I have only tried a mere percentage.
I engorged myself on the words.
I consumed the banquet and fell to my knees.
I suffered the pangs and pains of ignorance.
I could not grasp the words in whol
...more
Philip Same
Eugene V. Debs echoed Whitman when, on the 18th of November, 1918, he addressed the court to which he was summoned on ten counts of sedition with the following --

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Clay
I'll be brief since so much has been written on this book.
Whitman writes in a stream of consciousness style that turns out to be a rainbow of introspection, mania, political insight and commentary on his times. In the end he has composed something that will resonate with humanity throughout the remainder of its existence.
Des Small
Of all the great poets, Whitman is the one who most leaves the reader wanting less, and this first edition is as less as the Leaves of Grass ever got.

He broke the new wood; he unleashed the loose baggy monster school of American verse; and if he goes on a bit, very well then, he goes on a bit.
Nichole
I wish I would have read this when I was younger. Definitely a classic and worth every word, Walt Whitman is a voice for any age.
Joseph
Perfection. I can't think of much more to say... It a book you get lost in the best possible way.
Nicole G.
(I have the full-length "Deathbed" edition, I suppose it is, that runs to 500-plus pages; however, in the interest of time - and interest, heh - our book club chose this one, as it only has twelve poems).

Walt and I go way back to middle school, wherein I first discovered "O Captain! My Captain!" I had no idea of the full import of this poem, but I liked it. Flash-forward years later, when I realized, after discovering a few more of his poems, that the above elegy was not the rule, rather the ex
...more
Rich Law
I wanted to love this...a) because Whitman is a bit of an adorable, santa-claus like figure and you just wanna snuggle his beard, and b) I'm very much on board with the whole "everything is holy, life is wonderful" sentiment, but 110 pages of him gushing over grass and death in rarely evocative, prose-like, rambling poetry gets pretty tiresome.

There's some nice turns of phrase, but in the end it's just pretty one-dimensional stuff, which is a shame as Whitman did write some pretty stonking verse
...more
melmarian
Sep 02, 2012 melmarian marked it as timbunanku  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to melmarian by: Ndari
dapet buku fisiknya di periplus, only 35k ^^
Billy
While it doesn't have the references to fish-shape Paumanok ("Isle of sweet drinking-water—healthy air
and soil!—isle of the earth and brine!") that pulled me in to Leaves of Grass, and it lacks some of the poems that further sucked me in (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, for example), this is the original, brief 1855 work that exploded on the scene as a stunning, albeit uneven, work of genius. There are only 12 poems. These have no titles (titles were added to edited versions in later editions). More t
...more
Gina
The book is not precisely to my taste, but reading it was interesting, and I can see the importance of it.

Honestly, it is not that obscene. If at times it gets a little fleshy and earthbound, certainly modern tastes put up with far worse.

That leads to one of the most amazing things to me about the book, as the language is so modern. It really feels like something that could have been written decades later. I would forget that it was from 1855 until I would see a reference to slavery or somethi
...more
Keith
Walt Whitman – poet or priest, singer or shaman, versifier or prophet? These are the questions I always ask after reading Whitman, especially Song of Myself. He writes poetry for the most part. It’s not the form that I question, it’s his stance or persona. He speaks more as a shaman, a priest, a seer, a visionary or a prophet than a poet. He’s not a teller of tales, he’s a revealer of truths. He’s not as much a singer as a preacher. He’s a creator of myths, and mostly about himself.

I guess if he
...more
Aaron
(I read the Penguin Classics edition containing the original 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, introduced by Malcolm Cowley.)

William James, in his chapter on Mysticism in The Varieties of Religious Experience, makes the claim that the truth revealed in mystical experiences has complete authority for the experiencer, but that the grounds for this truth lie in the experience itself and so cannot be transmitted to others, who of course have not shared the experience. At its best, Leaves of Grass (ge
...more
Miroku Nemeth
I have taught selections from Whitman's poems for nearly two decades, but it is only through my recent correspondence with poet Daniel Moore that I have been inspired to read his "Leaves of Grass" straight through in its entirety. And I have to say that it is not just the poems that are worth reading for their aesthetic as well as historical value--the preface is sublimely prescient, beautiful in many, many ways where the hope of the past still serves to reinvigorate the present and give hope to ...more
Lon
How do you put a frame around this cosmos called Leaves of Grass? I feel like a tailor taking measurements for a blue whale, or a taxonomist classifying the whole of life. The lines echo in my head, "Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckon'd the earth much?"

Worthier readers than me have analyzed the various editions and cranked out their commentaries. Let me just say that Whitman's poems, taken together, provide a glimpse of divine union and omnipresence no less breathtaking in
...more
Hamish
This book brings up a lot of the issues I have with star ratings.

I approach books of poetry more in the way I approach albums than novels. You don't listen to an album once and give a definitive opinion, you listen to it many times and your opinion will often change over time. While I think novels should be read multiple times, they're time consuming and really you're going to render your initial verdict after the first read. I've read Leaves of Grass twice. The first time I didn't like it too t
...more
Julia
you have to be sincere to read whitman.
this is of course a major barrier. i'm talking about myself. i might be talking about you too, i suppose. you have to be sincere, and you have to be unafraid to take things seriously, and you can't let yourself take a few steps back. you can't be detached.
leaves of grass makes me so, so uncomfortable because of that. which is interesting, i suppose. i'm also not a fan of the transcendentalist philosophy in general, which accounts for some of the discomfort
...more
Victoria Song
I read the 150th Anniversary version, which is the original 1855 version that was first printed. I wasn't aware of the fact that he'd added and revised the work until his death, so chances are I'm going to have to pick up another version at some point to see what the differences are.

As for the poetry itself, you can feel the Americanism in every verse. Of all the poems, Song of Myself was the one I found most interesting and I was fascinated by Whitman's use of parallels throughout all his poems
...more
Atoosa
The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension :*Ezra Pound*
I read three poetry books simultaniously: Leaves of grass, selection of East-West divan by Goethe, and people on the bridge by Szymborska and at this very moment, I finished the last one: leaves of the grass and I cannot express truely how I am.
Leaves of grass made me feel so brilliant, more responsible on how more valuable every
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 26, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
This slim book was assigned to me in college and was my introduction to Walt William. This is the first 1855 edition of only 12 poems, later given titles: "Song of Myself," "A Song For Occupations," "To Think of Time," "The Sleepers," "I Sing the Body Electric," "Faces," "Song of the Answerer," "Europe: The 72d and 73d Years of These States," "A Boston Ballad," "There Was a Child Went Forth," "Who Learns My Lesson Complete?", and "Great Are the Myths." It would go through several editions until ...more
Kasper
Many of Whitman's wordings are terrific, and the content and themes were much different from what I had expected.

Having never read much poetry before, I was positively surprised that 'Song of Myself' was such an easily comprehendable and engaging read. So if you, like me, is a poetry novice, give it a shot. I wasn't as impressed with the other poems in 'Leaves of Grass', however...

The part of the collection which I most enjoyed, along with 'Song to Myself', was Whitman's Preface. He sometimes go
...more
Brett
How the years change taste. When in college I took a course in American Lit of the 19th century and remember being absolutely blown away by Whitman's long sentences, lists, expansive details and subjects. Now, sadly, these same things felt grating. I understand the reasons behind his decisions for those lists, but they just got tiresome and it didn't feel right anymore. I never finished the whole collection back then, only parts of Song of Myself, so I felt it necessary to fully give him a try. ...more
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Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during
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More about Walt Whitman...
Leaves of Grass Song of Myself Poetry and Prose (Library of America) The Complete Poems Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions (Barnes & Noble Classics)

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“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun.... there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand.... nor look through the eyes of the dead.... nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”
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“Agonies are one of my changes of garments.” 36 likes
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