Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, Brandeis University

 

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Whitman and Lincoln

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          Critic David Reynolds has said, “Lincoln, as Whitman saw him, was virtually the living embodiment of the ‘I’ of Leaves of Grass.  …If, as Whitman said, Leaves of Grass and the war were one, they particularly came together in Lincoln.”  The relationship between the two men appears to have been one of mutual, heightened awareness without any explicit or direct personal interaction.  Seemingly answering the call Whitman voiced in The Eighteenth Presidency! for a “Redeemer President,” Lincoln is the one figure in Whitman’s poetry that is permitted to cast a shadow over the poet himself; for this reason, it is easy to see why critics evinced from an early date an interest in considering the relationship between the two.  

          When lilacs last in the door-yard bloomed,
          And the great star early drooped in the western sky in the night,
          I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.           

                                                             - Memories of President Lincoln


Lincoln and Whitman cover         Lincoln and Whitman title page

William Eleazar Barton.  Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman.  Illustrated.  Indianapolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Company. 1928.