Lucretius (lucretius) wrote,
Lucretius
lucretius

An Expurgated Whitman poem

Sometime before the Spring of 1859, Walt Whitman wrote a series of 12 manuscript poems that have been gathered by Fredson Bowers under the title "Live Oak With Moss." They seem to tell the story of a disappointing romantic relationship.

In 1860, Whitman took those poems out of their original order, and placed them in a new section of his Leaves of Grass entitled "Calamus," where in their new context they took on a  less autobiographical, more programmatic meaning.

After the 1860 edition, he dropped three poems, never to reprint them again.  They are not included in most modern editions of Whitman's poems.  This was one:


9.

HOURS continuing long, sore and heavy-hearted,

Hours of the dusk, when I withdraw to a lonesome

         and unfrequented spot, seating myself, leaning

         my face in my hands;

Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go forth,

         speeding swiftly the country roads, or through

         the city streets, or pacing miles and miles, sti-

         fling plaintive cries;

Hours discouraged, distracted—for the one I cannot

         content myself without, soon I saw him content

         himself without me;

Hours when I am forgotten, (O weeks and months are

         passing, but I believe I am never to forget!)

Sullen and suffering hours! (I am ashamed—but it

         is useless—I am what I am;)

Hours of my torment—I wonder if other men ever

         have the like, out of the like feelings?

Is there even one other like me—distracted—his

         friend, his lover, lost to him?

Is he too as I am now? Does he still rise in the morn-

         ing, dejected, thinking who is lost to him? and

         at night, awaking, think who is lost?

Does he too harbor his friendship silent and endless?

         harbor his anguish and passion?

Does some stray reminder, or the casual mention of a

         name, bring the fit back upon him, taciturn and

         deprest?

Does he see himself reflected in me? In these hours,

         does he see the face of his hours reflected?



Why did he drop this one?  In its brief life, it was quite important for several of Whitman's early readers.   Is he expurgating himself to avoid some imagined anti-homosexual backlash (leaving more explicit poems?)   Is he trying to edit out his own pain?  Is he trying to make the sequence less personal, and fit his audience better?  All of the above?
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