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This article is taken from PN Review 176, Volume 33 Number 6, July - August 2007.

Whitman in Europe Michael Schmidt

Whitman recalls how, lying down one rainy day in Missouri, he took up a book of poems by Milton, Young, Gray, Beattie and Collins, then gave it up 'for a bad job'. He regaled himself for a while with some Walter Scott, but then reflected how

One's mind needs but a moment's deliberation anywhere in the United States to see clearly enough that all the prevalent book and library poets, either as imported from Great Britain, or follow'd and doppel-gang 'd here, are foreign to our States, copiously as they are read by us all. But to fully understand not only how absolutely in opposition to our times and lands, and how little and cramp'd, and what anachronisms and absurdities many of their pages are, for American purposes, one must dwell or travel awhile in Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, and get rapport with their people and country.


'Will the day ever come,' he asks, ' - no matter how long deferr'd - when those models and lay-figures from the British islands - and even the precious traditions of the classics - will be reminiscences, studies only?' He longs for

the pure breath, primitiveness, boundless prodigality and amplitude, strange mixture of delicacy and power, of continence, of real and ideal, and of all original and first-class elements, of these prairies, the Rocky mountains, and of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers - will they ever appear in, and in some sort ...


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