Dinner with Walt

all things Walt Whitman

Dinner with Walt - all things Walt Whitman

March 26, 2012

Today marks the 120th anniversary of Whitman’s death.

 

Horace Traubel’s volume’s of With Walt Whitman in Camden, show in great detail how Whitman was truly in very poor health the last remaining years of his life. He suffered much, but mostly never complained about his situation. In preparing for his own death, Whitman himself drew the plans for his final resting place and commissioned the work to be done on his mausoleum for the very hefty (1892) price of $4,000. (For which he suffered much ridicule).

 

 

 From Wikipedia on Whitman’s death:  “An autopsy revealed his lungs had diminished to one-eighth their normal breathing capacity, a result of bronchial pneumonia, and that an egg-sized abscess on his chest had eroded one of his ribs. The cause of death was officially listed as “pleurisy of the left side, consumption of the right lung, general military tuberculosis and parenchymatous nephritis.” A public viewing of his body was held at his Camden home; over one thousand people visited in three hours and Whitman’s oak coffin was barely visible because of all the flowers and wreaths left for him. Four days after his death, he was buried in his tomb at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. Another public ceremony was held at the cemetery, with friends giving speeches, live music, and refreshments. Whitman’s friend, the orator Robert Ingersoll, delivered the eulogy. Later, the remains of Whitman’s parents and two of his brothers and their families were moved to the mausoleum.”

 

An 1892 photo of the funeral gathering at Whitman’s tomb:

 

 

I have in my collection a copy of Robert Ingersoll’s eulogy, delivered on March 30, 1892.

 

 

Credits:

Mausoleum Image:  http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/images/ww0062s.jpg

 

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Searching for Whitman this weekend!

From the last section of Song of Myself, Whitman writes:

 

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.
 
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
 
The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds, it coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
 
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
 
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, if you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
 
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, and filter and fibre your blood.
 
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.

 

 
I love this whole passage, but that last sentence I find encouraging and appropriate for my journey this weekend! I will be trekking to Washington D.C. in search of Whitman and intend to discover Whitman’s influence upon the city is still very alive. My trek will continue with a short drive north for further Whitman searching’s in Camden, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.

 

Check back soon, I’m certain there will be lots for me to share!

 

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