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"The Beautiful Uncut Hair Of Graves"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: After experiences as printer, journalist, and newspaper editor, during which he published a few poems and articles, Walt Whitman, under an abbreviated first name that he used for the rest of his life, published at his own expense a small volume, Leaves of Grass , containing twelve lyric poems, among them "Song of Myself." The book was largely ignored except by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote him a congratulatory letter. In subsequent years through commercial publishers, Whitman issued ten editions, each radically different. At first Whitman was criticized for his daring subject matter and for his long, rhythmical, but unrhymed lines. Readers thought he well characterized himself when he wrote about his "barbaric yawp." Today, however, critics recognize the greatness of some poems, amid the false greatness and mediocrity of the...

(The entire section is 291 words.)