Notes on the Text

All of the lines in this anthology are direct quotations from words that Whitman wrote (plus a very few words that others said they heard him say). His best-known work is Leaves of Grass, the collection of poems on which he worked from the early 1850s to the end of his life. I have relied primarily on the text of the 1891-1892 “deathbed” edition, but I have supplemented freely with text from other editions. All of the many editions of the work are available at He also wrote extensively in prose. Most of the prose was gathered at the end of his life in Complete Prose Works, available at The largest portion of this anthology comes from these published poetic and prose works. I have also drawn freely on his notebooks, letters, and handwritten fragments now found in archives, all of which were unpublished in his lifetime.

I have split up Whitman’s units of poetry into separate lines and combined those with lines from other units that treat the same theme, to create a new poem. Occasionally I have changed a few words, or the order of the words, to create verses that read more smoothly. In a very few instances I have taken the liberty he offered us, filtered his work from myself, and changed or added words to better reflect my own thoughts, values, and experience. But these instances are quite rare.

Whitman used capital letters frequently and perhaps impulsively; his capitalization was rather inconsistent, and sometimes seemingly arbitrary. I have removed most of his capital letters for consistency and to make the text easier to read. I have left capital letters only at the beginning of each line and for words that are nowadays typically capitalized.

I chose not to cite the sources of the words in the anthology, fearing that an endless string of footnotes would interfere with the reading experience. To find the source of any specific line or set of words, type the words into an internet search engine along with the word Whitman. If you get no useful results, try shortening the string of words.

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