Monday, February 21, 2011

every manifestation of vital living...

I am re-reading Henry Seidel Canby's biography, "Walt Whitman: An American" (1943) and just came accross this bit which I liked. Canby has just written of Whitman the New York editor and "Democratic Idealist" of the 1840's and explains why he never entirely lost his optimism in democracy.

"Writers of depth and scope" writes Canby, "can be roughly classified as those who have essentially loved life and those who have essentially hated it...Now Whitman , the democratic idealist, had some reason to emerge as a hater of life...It did not go that way with him. Any careful reader of Whitman knows that often he did hate life in some of its respects, but instead of breaking down into a general hate, he lifted into a general love of mankind. There were reasons of temperament undoubtedly, but to them must be added these responsible and enthusiastic years when he was a 'son of Manhattan' happily wandering its streets, lay moralist and commentator for the town of Brooklyn, and friend to every manifestation of vital living."


1 comment:

David G. Markham said...

I am no student of Whitman and know little about him and his work other than that he was a great poet. However, I think I read that he had a homosexual orientation and if that is true, it must have been very hard on him during the time he was living. He seems like a very gentle and optimistic soul but I could understand if he was somewhat soured on life from time to time because of the societal conflicts he must have dealt with due to his sexual orientaion.