Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman Poems

Walt Whitman is known as the father of free verse poetry. His deeply emotional, spiritual, and nature-based poems appeal to poetry lovers around the world. His skill and subject matter ensured that he became regarded as one of America’s defining poetic and artistic voices. Read more about Walt Whitman.

O Captain! My Captain!

by Walt Whitman

Saddened by the results of the American civil war, Walt Whitman wrote the elegy, ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ in memory of deceased American President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. The civil war occurred during his lifetime with Whitman a staunch supporter of unionists.

Walt Whitman is considered one of the most important poets in American literary history, known for his unconventional free verse style, as is demonstrated in this poem, and his celebration of individualism, democracy, and the beauty of the natural world. His poetry reflects the changing social and cultural landscape of the United States in the 19th century and continues to inspire readers today.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

On the Beach at Night Alone

by Walt Whitman

‘On the Beach at Night Alone’ by Walt Whitman is a powerful poem. In it, Whitman discusses how everything that has ever existed or will ever exist is connected.

This poem is regarded as one of Whitman's finest poems. Its themes of interconnectedness, spirituality, and the beauty of nature, as well as its innovative free-form style, have made it a beloved and enduring work of literature.

A vast similitude interlocks all,

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,

All distances of place however wide,

All distances of time, all inanimate forms,

As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days

by Walt Whitman

‘As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days’ by Walt Whitman offers a timeless examination of the poet’s purpose in a world that is constantly changing due to forces that only appear more tangible than poetry.

This poem by Walt Whitman finds the Transcendentalist poet engaging with possibly the most grandiose topic he's ever addressed in his poetry: the future. Written after the end of the American Civil War during the final decades of the 19th century, its lines muse optimistically over the trajectory of humanity's course. It also passionately reckons with the poet's purpose and essentialism in an age of incessant progress and industrialization.

As I walk these broad majestic days of peace,

(For the war, the struggle of blood finish'd, wherein, O terrific Ideal,

Against vast odds erewhile having gloriously won,

Now thou stridest on, yet perhaps in time toward denser wars,


That Music Always Round Me

by Walt Whitman

‘That Music Always Round Me’ by Walt Whitman is a beautiful poem that melds together the poet’s democratic worldview with a rapt appreciation for individual beauty.

This poem by Walt Whitman uses a motif that often appears in his poems: music as a metaphor for externalized passion and individuality. But it is also a great example of the poet's uniquely energetic voice, as well as his penchant for emotionally charged imagery and figurative language. The result is a poem that articulates a celebration of the many-voiced human spirit that he's often found exalting.

That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long untaught I did not hear,

But now the chorus I hear and am elated,

Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand

by Walt Whitman

‘Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand’ by Walt Whitman presents itself as a declaration of how best to engage with the poet’s ardently intimate verses.

This poem by Walt Whitman comes from his famous collection 'Leaves of Grass.' In many ways, it's a crucial part of the series because of its attempt to convey the poet's beliefs on how one should read and experience his poetry. Providing a guide that his pseudo-spiritual for the reader and cautions against many of the pitfalls and mistakes one can make when reading Whitman.

Whoever you are holding me now in hand,

Without one thing all will be useless,

I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,

I am not what you supposed, but far different.


by Walt Whitman

‘Mannahatta’ by Walt Whitman is a stunning poem that marvels over a city deeply admired by the poet, encompassing all the wondrous elements of its populace.

As one of the most compelling writers of the Transcendental movement, Walt Whitman's verse is closely associated with two images: nature and people. This poem reveals and celebrates the people of Manhattan as much as its natural features. But one feature that makes it stand out amongst his other poems is its majestic vision of an urban cityscape, which might appear at first incongruent with his reverence of nature and even slightly rivals it.

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,

Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient,

I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,

Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries

by Walt Whitman

‘Shut Not Your Doors to Me Proud Libraries’ by Walt Whitman is a poem about the imperative of a poet to share their art with the world for its benefit.

This poem by Walt Whitman first appeared in his collection titled 'Drum Taps,' which served as his recollection of the American Civil War. This poem appears at the beginning of that collection after its eponymous poem, serving as a plea to the nation's libraries to accept his poems about the war and its meaning to the American people.

Shut not your doors to me, proud libraries,

For that which was lacking among you all, yet needed most, I bring;

A book I have made for your dear sake, O soldiers,

And for you, O soul of man, and you, love of comrades;

The Sleepers

by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s ‘The Sleepers’ portrays a brave swimmer’s perilous journey through nature’s might, evoking awe and mortality.

This poem is a good representation of Walt Whitman's poems. The poem embodies many characteristics commonly found in Whitman's works, such as vivid imagery, emotional intensity, and a focus on nature and the human experience. It also showcases his use of free verse, direct address, and exploration of profound themes like mortality and the human spirit.

I see a beautiful gigantic swimmer swimming naked through the eddies of the sea,

His brown hair lies close and even to his head, he strikes out with courageous arms, he urges himself with his legs,


by Walt Whitman

‘America’ by Walt Whitman is a short but impactful poem that expresses the poet’s pride and joy for his fellow countrymen.

This poem by Walt Whitman comes from a section of 'Leaves of Grass' referred to as the 'Calamus' poems. Although incredibly short, the poet still manages to cram such lofty and grandiose images within its few lines, which are characterized by the poet's breathlessly earnest free verse and cataloging. The result is a moving poem that expresses stalwart pride.

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,

All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,

Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,

Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,

City of Orgies

by Walt Whitman

‘City of Orgies’ by Walt Whitman is a poem written by the celebrated American poet Walt Whitman. The poem is a reflection on the city of Manhattan and Whitman’s experiences in the midst of its bustling urban culture. 

In this poem, Whitman's sensual and erotic imagery reflects his belief in the importance of celebrating the human body and the joy of life. Walt Whitman's poetry is known for its celebration of nature, democracy, and the human spirit. His collection "Leaves of Grass" is considered one of the most influential works of American poetry. This is not his most important poem nor is it his best.

City of orgies, walks and joys,

City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one day

make you illustrious,

Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your specta-

cles, repay me,

Explore more poems from Walt Whitman

City of Ships

by Walt Whitman

‘City of Ships’ by Walt Whitman praises the city of New York giving specific focus and awe to its crowded harbors.

This poem by Walt Whitman serves as both a celebration and a war cry, one he directs at the city of New York and its inhabitants. It's not the only poem he's written that gives powerful praise to the urban colossus, either. Yet what makes this one unique is the intense call to arms that's woven between its sprawling imagery.

City of ships!

(O the black ships! O the fierce ships!

O the beautiful sharp-bow'd steam-ships and sail-ships!)

City of the world! (for all races are here,

For You O Democracy

by Walt Whitman

‘For You O Democracy’ by Walt Whitman dedicates itself to the establishment of a land and people worthy of the noble ideals of democracy itself.

This poem by Walt Whitman expresses the poet's unabashed patriotism, which often presented itself in his poetry as a complicated tangle of nationalistic pride and democratic fervor. Although his journalistic works contain ingrained racism, that's hard to reconcile with literary works like this poem. Especially when they contain such loftily vociferous calls for equality and unity.

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,

I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,

I will make divine magnetic lands,

With the love of comrades,

Come, said My Soul

by Walt Whitman

‘Come, said My Soul’ by Walt Whitman expresses a poetic desire to intimately entwine one’s identity, body and soul, with their art.

This poem by Walt Whitman reveals to the reader the poet's hopes and desires for his poetry. Uninterested in fame or glory, he instead looks forward to the day that his spirit is conjured up by some strangers who stumble upon his verse. In doing so, he underscores the poet's mission to connect people through their words.

Come, said my Soul

Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)

That should I after death invisibly return,

Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,

Facing West From California’s Shores

by Walt Whitman

‘Facing West From California’s Shores’ by Walt Whitman is a unique poem that alludes to the state of California and the potential expansion of the United States.

The poem shares many of the hallmarks of Whitman's poetry, including its free-form style, use of repetition, and focus on the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world. This is not one of Whitman's best-known poems, but it is well-worth reading.

Facing west from California's shores,

Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,

I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity,

the land of migrations, look afar,

Washington’s Monument, February, 1885

by Walt Whitman

‘Washington’s Monument, February, 1885’ by Walt Whitman is a patriotic poem that lionizes the memory of George Washington in light of his newly unveiled memorial.

This poem by Walt Whitman serves as the Transcendentalist poet's belated eulogy for George Washington. One that makes use of his characteristically decadent imagery and figurative to craft a memorial from verse for the first president of the United States. Like so many of his patriotic poems, this one displays incredible passion while also seeking to globalize it.

Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:

Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling, comprehending,

Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—not yours alone, America,

Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,

To BRYANT, the Poet of Nature

by Walt Whitman

In ‘To BRYANT, the Poet of Nature,’ Bryant’s legacy is intertwined with nature’s eternal embrace. It is a poetic testament transcending time, honoring the divine bond between art and environment.

This poem encapsulates several themes and stylistic elements commonly found in Walt Whitman's poems. It showcases his reverence for nature, his exploration of the divine and spiritual, his celebration of individuality, and his unique approach to form and structure. The poem's focus on nature's role in commemorating a poet's legacy, its use of vivid imagery, and its contemplative tone are all characteristic of Whitman's broader body of work.

Let Glory diadem the mighty dead—

Let monuments of brass and marble rise

To those who have upon our being shed

A golden halo, borrowed from the skies,


by Walt Whitman

‘1861’ by Walt Whitman is a moving Civil War poem written from the perspective of a soldier. He details the difficulty of a particular year. 

No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you,

terrible year!

Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisp-

ing cadenzas piano;

A Clear Midnight

by Walt Whitman

‘A Clear Midnight’ by Walt Whitman is a simple, yet impactful poem that depicts a speaker’s desire to free his soul from the confines of day to day life. 

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

A Woman Waits for Me

by Walt Whitman

Formerly known as ‘Poem of Procreation,’ Whitman’s ‘A Woman Waits for Me’ is all about the power of regeneration, procreation, and creativity.

I draw you close to me, you women,

I cannot let you go, I would do you good,

I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for others' sakes,

Envelop'd in you sleep greater heroes and bards,

An Army Corps on the March

by Walt Whitman

Whitman’s ‘An Army Corps on the March’ is a moving depiction of soldiers marching forward tirelessly during the Civil War. No matter how exhausted they were, they had a goal to fulfill and a dream to achieve!

Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover'd men,

In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,

With artillery interspers'd—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,

As the army corps advances.


by Walt Whitman

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd,

I stand and look at them long and long.

Beat! Beat! Drums!

by Walt Whitman

The commentary that Whitman provides in ‘Beat! Beat! Drums!’, in regard to the American Civil war, is that it’s all-encompassing and negative.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,

Into the school where the scholar is studying,

Beginning My Studies

by Walt Whitman

Beginning my studies, the first step pleas’d me so much,

The mere fact, consciousness—these forms—the power of motion,

The least insect or animal—the senses—eyesight—love;


by Walt Whitman

‘Broadway’ by Walt Whitman is a short, effective poem that speaks to the nature of contemporary life. It focuses in on one street in New York City.

What hurrying human tides, or day or night!

What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!

What whirls of evil, bliss and sorrow, stem thee!

What curious questioning glances- glints of love!

Come Up from the Fields Father

by Walt Whitman

‘Come Up from the Fields Father’ by Walt Whitman is a moving war-time poem. Through its lines, the poet addresses the effect of a son’s death on his family. 

Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,

And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,

Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,

Hush’d Be the Camps To-Day

by Walt Whitman

HUSH'D be the camps to-day;

And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;

And each, with musing soul retire, to celebrate,

Our dear commander's death.

I Dream’d in a Dream

by Walt Whitman

I DREAM'D in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the

attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth;

I dream'd that was the new City of Friends;

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s poetic prose, ‘I hear America Singing’, free-flows with vibrancy, energy, and sheer respect for proletariat members of America.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

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