At first I was annoyed that I had to get a new copy of Whitman’s poetry and prose, but it’s been kind of cool to read through the preface without having to see my old notes. I know it gets long-winded sometimes (“No one ever wished it longer,” as Dr. Johnson said of Paradise Lost), but some lines really jump out:
The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature (5). [“The Americans of all nations”??? What gall!]
What is marvellous? what is unlikely? what is impossible or baseless or vague? after you have once just opened the space of a peachpit . . . (10).
The sea is not surer of the shore or the shore of the sea than [the poet] is of the fruition of his love and of all perfection and beauty (12).
The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify despots. The turn of their necks, the sound of their feet, the motions of their wrists, are full of hazard to the one and hope to the other (17).
As the attributes of the poets of the kosmos concentre in the real body and soul and in the pleasure of things they possess the superiority of genuineness over all fiction and romance (18). [Wait–did you just say “the pleasure of things”??? What’s THAT all about?]
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