Out Of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking by Walt WhitmanWalter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.
Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842).
After working as clerk, teacher, journalist and laborer, Whitman wrote his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, pioneering free verse poetry in a humanistic celebration of humanity, in 1855. Emerson, whom Whitman revered, said of Leaves of Grass that it held incomparable things incomparably said. During the Civil War, Whitman worked as an army nurse, later writing Drum Taps (1865) and Memoranda During the War (1867). His health compromised by the experience, he was given work at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. After a stroke in 1873, which left him partially paralyzed, Whitman lived his next 20 years with his brother, writing mainly prose, such as Democratic Vistas (1870). Leaves of Grass was published in nine editions, with Whitman elaborating on it in each successive edition. In 1881, the book had the compliment of being banned by the commonwealth of Massachusetts on charges of immorality. A good friend of Robert Ingersoll, Whitman was at most a Deist who scorned religion. D. 1892.
Leaves of Grass
This poem was written in and incorporated into the edition of Leaves of Grass. A young boy watches a pair of birds nesting on the beach near his home, and marvels at their relationship to one another. One day the female bird fails to return. The male stays near the nest, calling for his lost mate. This is another poem that links Whitman to the Romantics.
In Leaves of Grass , , he celebrated democracy, nature, love, and friendship. This monumental work chanted praises to the body as well as to the soul, and found beauty and Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation.
Support the Archive. The poem was first published under the title "A Child's Reminiscence" in the New York Saturday Press for 24 December , with the opening verse paragraph bearing the heading "Pre-Verse. Whitman made several changes in the poem for the edition, used the title "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" for the first time in the edition, and gave the poem virtually its final form in the edition. In the Deathbed edition, it stands prominently at the head of the "Sea-Drift section. On the beach at night, a curious boy wanders alone, witnessing two birds living and loving together.
From the SparkNotes Blog
Once Paumanok, When the lilac-scent was in the air and Fifth-month grass was growing, Up this seashore in some briers, Two feather'd guests from Alabama, two together, And their nest, and four light-green eggs spotted with brown, And every day the he-bird to and fro near at hand, And every day the she-bird crouch'd on her nest, silent, with bright eyes, And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating. Pour down your warmth, great sun! While we bask, we two together. Two together! Winds blow south, or winds blow north, Day come white, or niqht come black, Home, or rivers and mountains from home, Singing all time, minding no time, While we two keep together.
Out of the ceaselessly rocking cradle of the sea waves, a memory comes back to the poet. He recalls that as a child, he left his bed and "wander'd alone, bareheaded, barefoot" in search of the mystery of life and death. He is a man now but "by these tears a little boy again," and he throws himself on the shore "confronting the waves. The experience he now recalls is that on the Paumanok seashore one May, when lilacs were in bloom, he observed two mockingbirds, "feather'd guests from Alabama. One day the female disappeared, "may-be kill'd, unknown to her mate. The bird's lament, or "aria," affected the boy deeply. Every shadow seemed to the bird the hoped-for shape of his mate reappearing.