Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

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1861


ARM’D year! year of the struggle!
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you, terrible year!
Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisping cadenzas
piano;
But as a strong man, erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing,
carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands–with a knife in
the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud–your sonorous voice ringing across the
continent;
Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you, as one of the workmen, the
dwellers in Manhattan;
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and
Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and descending the
Alleghanies;
Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along
the Ohio river;
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at
Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year;
Heard your determin’d voice, launch’d forth again and again;
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp’d cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Saturday, October 01, 2011

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  • Bronze Star - 7,381 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (10/1/2014 2:49:00 AM)

    Great poet's great poetry and it is about the soldier in uniforms and determination of warfare. How wonderfully his pen wrote in such spirits and I likes it with such respects. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 220 Points Shania K. Younce (5/10/2014 8:20:00 PM)

    This style of poetry slightly escapes me. Not my typical style. I think I might try the form. Although I wonder if some poems are just simply a rerecord of history and he happened to write about because he was alive at that time. Bien! (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,208 Points Kevin Straw (10/1/2012 1:07:00 PM)

    What a gay poem! Little Walt dreaming about all those tough sinewy men. Was this the decade when these warriors massacred hundreds of Indian men, women and children - when these heroes wrenched huge tracts of America off the rightful owners. nobly battling them using repeater rifles against their bows and arrows? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 113 Points Karen Sinclair (10/1/2012 3:05:00 AM)

    The title eluded me so i had to google to find out the significance...... lines 3 and 4 are the most thought provoking.... it seems maybe he is not happy that he is unable to go to war, possibly aged and regretting the fact he must stay at home pale and as the cliche' goes armed with just a pen... he seems much in awe of those men in uniform.....interesting poem, some beautiful use of language and although i could never hope to write such a poetic piece there is just something missing for me here....tyvm karen (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Ramesh T A (10/1/2010 12:55:00 PM)

    Historically significant situation Walt Whitman is best at expressing matters with his unique poetic skill! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Michael Harmon (10/2/2009 2:19:00 PM)

    I've always had mixed feelings about Whitman. I appreciate the fact that he's been canonized in American Poetry, but, aside from a few of his poems, I've never really liked his work (if ever given a choice between his poetry or, say, Dickinson's, I would invariably choose Dickinson) . He was a blatant self-advertiser in his lifetime, although he espoused much that I find admirable in his philosophy. Whether any war, however, is 'justified' or not is debatable. It has taken me decades to approach the belief that none really are, and that the 'call' to war is one of the horrible persistent traits the so-called 'masculine' among us seem so highly susceptible to. If this is an anti-war poem, please provide me with the evidence, and I'll gladly concede. Paraphrasing Siegfried Sassoon, that great WW1 English poet: war does not ennoble, it degrades. And this poem of Whitman's, despite any of its innovations and its politically-correct (for its time and place) philosophy, appears (to me, at least) to be glorifying war, yet again. Our 'masculine voice' indeed; give me any day the 'pale poetling' who desires not to kill... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Joseph Poewhit (10/1/2009 6:11:00 AM)

    1861 the beginning of the Civil War. Whitman captures the rugged character of the men of the time. Long forced marches,50 miles a day, give and take, to arrive at a battle zone, then to fight. Hard men, with the rawness of the country at the time and the CAUSES of the Civil War. Truly spirit and uplifting the words, a call. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Kevin Straw (10/1/2009 6:09:00 AM)

    I'm not sure of the point of the 2nd and 3rd lines. They go without saying. And there is something of the braggart in W's unnecessary contrasting of his 'manly ' poetry with poets and poetry he seems to consider not man enough for the occasion.
    Whitman could have began the 4th line 'A strong man etc' without losing any of the force of the poem.
    Is 'saw I' preferable to 'I saw'? Whitman here, perhaps, come close to the very style he is refuting in the 2nd and 3rd lines. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Mauta Peter (3/27/2009 1:21:00 PM)

    Was it written for kenya in 2007, it wouldnt have been much different.only in our case it was a year of hope and change which turned into a year of blood letting and fear of the much extolled democratic processes. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Robert Quilter (10/1/2008 10:07:00 AM)

    I like the idea of a year that doesn't deserve a poem, or it's too important to be 'belittled' by a poet trying to rhyme his work. Love the last line '..you hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year...' 1989 was a little like that for me. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 156 Points Sean Andrews (4/22/2008 11:09:00 PM)

    A synopsis of the year 1861, first and foremost a year of war. The Civil War, 'blue clothes' Whitman is a Northerner from New York. The war reaches into the lives of workmen, and the lives of presidents Lincoln (from Illinois) elected in 1861, heard across the continent, this year of war...across mountains (Alleghanies) , lakes, rivers and south the war spreads in 1861. A year of war, rifles and cannon... (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »

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