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Walt Whitman/Leaves of Grass #9 : Song of the Redwood-Tree

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Published on Oct 3, 2010

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) From Leaves of Grass Part 9: Song of the Redwood-Tree

Song of the Redwood-Tree first appeared in Harper's in 1874. Whitman included it in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass.

In Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics, M. Jimmie Killingsworth writes that Whitman was depressed when he wrote Song of the Redwood-Tree in the fall of 1873. [1] He was living with his brother George after having had a stroke In February of that year, [2] and he was discontented by the post war national direction. [3]

As he had with earlier editions, Whitman edited and reordered many poems for the 1881 edition. For this edition he created five new clusters for the book's presentation. [4] He included Song of the Redwood-Tree in the Calamus cluster.

Killingsworth writes that Whitman had never seen a redwood tree in nature, but speculates that he may have seen an exhibit of one though Whitman doesn't speak of such. [5] In his essay, Killingsworth describes Whitman portrayal of the tree as an abstraction. He says the poem presents a "nature-as-resource" perspective of ecology, and suggests Whitman may have been influenced by the ideas of Manifest Destiny of the 1840's and 50's about American westward expansion. [6,7] Killingsworth cites Howard Nelson's criticism that Song of the Redwood Tree "contains a pure dose on nineteenth century boosterism of modern progress that should make any 21st century reader wince." [8]

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Text of Song of the Redwood-Tree
http://whitmanarchive.org/published/L...

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Sources and Notes
Walt Whitman Archive: M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics
[Notes: 1: The Fall of the Redwood Tree, 3 (same,) 5 (same,) 6 (same,) 8 (same.)]
http://www.whitmanarchive.org/critici...

Walt Whitman Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan, Library of America, 1982 [Notes: 2: Specimen Days ]

Walt Whitman Archive: Renner, Dennis K., "Leaves of Grass, 1881-82 edition," from Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia Garland Publishing, 1998 [Note 4]
http://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/c...

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