to New York, tried lecturing, worked at the carpenter's trade with his father, and brooded over a book-“a book of new things.”
This was the famous Leaves of Grass
He set the type himself, in a Brooklyn printing-office, and printed about eight hundred copies.
The book had a portrait of the author — a meditative, gray-bearded poet in workman's clothes — and a confused preface on America
as a field for the true poet.
Then followed the new gospel, “I celebrate myself,” chanted in long lines of free verse, whose patterns perplexed contemporary readers.
For the most part it was passionate speech rather than song, a rhapsodical declamation in hybrid rhythms.
Very few people bought the book or pretended to understand what it was all about.
Some were startled by the frank sexuality of certain poems.
wrote to Whitman
: “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America
has yet contributed.”
Until the Civil War
was half over, Whitman
remained in Brooklyn
, patiently composing new poems for successive printings of his book.
Then he went to the front to care for a wounded brother, and finally settled down in a Washington garret