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[265] which clarified his vision ‘of the world as love’ and fused his purposes in life, and which some biographers, attaching to it more significance than did Whitman himself and forgetting that he had other such experiences, are inclined to consider the most important fact in his biography. At any rate, the book of which he had dreamed since adolescence and of which he had as early as 18471 written many passages was now, in 1854-5, written and rewritten, and printed in Brooklyn, without a publisher, in July, 1855.

The purpose of the author in writing this unique volume may be stated in his own comprehensive words, written in 1876:

I dwelt on Birth and Life, clothing my ideas in pictures, days, transactions of my time, to give them positive place, identity-saturating them with the vehemence of pride and audacity of freedom necessary to loosen the mind of still-to-be-form'd America from the folds, the superstitions, and all the long, tenacious and stifling anti-democratic authorities of Asiatic and European past—my enclosing purport being to express, above all artificial regulation and aid, the eternal Bodily Character of One's-Self.

The plan for his poetic life-work was to have been completed, he tells us in the Preface to the 1876 edition, by composing
a further, equally needed volume, based on those convictions of perpetuity and conservation which, enveloping all precedents, make the unseen soul govern absolutely at last.

The perfecting of this latter work, dealing with the soul and immortality, had proved beyond his powers and failing health, but a fair idea of what it meant to set forth is to be found, no doubt, in The two Rivulets (1876).

If Emerson's American scholar address was the intellectual declaration of American independence, this first edition of Leaves of Grass, though only a thin imperial octavo of ninety-five pages with a hastily written but vigorous and far-sighted explanatory preface, was the first gun in a major campaign of the war that was to win that

1 A Whitman manuscript notebook in the possession of Thomas B. Harned, one of the poet's friends and literary executors, preserves these earliest known specimens of modern free verse. They are shortly to be published by the present writer.

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