Ralph Waldo Emerson’s last major philosophical volume, Conduct of Life (1860), contains many of the views that were so influential over Whitman. Stressing the importance of self-reliance, the book also reveals Emerson’s romantic aesthetic theory.
Leaves of Grass (1892), Whitman’s life work and one of the major achievements in American literature, contains many famous sections, such as “Drum-Taps,” “Memories of President Lincoln,” and “Songs of Parting.” The final poem of “Inscriptions,” “Song of Myself,” is one of Whitman’s most influential longer poems.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Evening Star” (1827) is a compelling meditation on astronomy that relates to love and other themes. It is an important poetic vision of the night sky by an earlier American romantic writer who was an important influence on Whitman.
Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby-Dick (1851) is the story of Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale. Its symbolism and romantic undercurrent are vastly different in style from Whitman’s work, yet the writers were contemporaries and explored some of the same themes.
Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1895), like Whitman’s Drum-Taps, deals directly with the horrors of the Civil War, but its approach is quite distinct and in many ways reveals the developments in the American literary scene during Whitman’s later years.