For the most part, SPECIMEN DAYS lacks the somewhat rambling style of DEMOCRATIC VISTAS. For this reason it is easier to read than most of Whitman’s prose. Composed primarily of a loosely kept diary, the work is a series of the poet’s observations about his youth, the war years, and the last period of his life spent in Camden, New Jersey. Aside from containing some of the few examples of Whitman’s beliefs stated clearly and laconically, it is also a worthy historical account of one facet of the war years, with occasional portraits of important political and literary figures of the time. But the most obvious value of the essay is in the portrait of Whitman himself. While it is by no means a complete account of all the events in the poet’s life, it does give a vivid picture of his background, some moving reports of his reactions to the war, and his real enjoyment of nature during his later years.
The organization of SPECIMEN DAYS is purely chronological. At his home Whitman had a collection of papers he had written during his career, and at a publisher’s request he went there to “reel out diary-scraps and memoranda, just as they are, large or small, one after another, into print-pages, and let the melange’s lackings and wants of connection take care of themselves.” Whitman stated that if his book accomplished nothing more, he would at least “send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever...
(The entire section is 1509 words.)
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