6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
It is possible that Walt Whitman is the best poet this country has turned out so far. Of course this could be debated and what it really comes down to is individual reader taste. In my personal opinion, he is the best, but then his work pleases me and I have yet to read a poem or a bit of his prose that I did not enjoy and learn from. Other poets please me too, but Whitman's work somehow touches me like no other. Others may differ of course, but that is okay and as it should be.
This little bit of a book is from the Dover Thrifty Edition collection an concentrates on Whitman's writing during and after the Civil War and of course addresses the war, both directly and indirectly. Many of the selections here have been taken from Leaves of Grass, but the editors have gleaned through Whitman's other works and put this wonderful collection together; the central subject being the Civil War. As has been pointed out by other reviewers, we have a very nice and well done selection of the poets work in the first half of the book with poems such as Dirge for Two Veterans, Look down Fair moon, O Captain! My Captain (of course), Camps of Green along with twenty five other Civil War poems. The second half of the book contains a number of letters to friends and relatives and bits of this and than concerning the poet's view of the war and his experiences. It must be noted that both Whitman and his family were quite involved in this conflict and he and his entire family were quite vested in its process.
Often times, the modern reader does not realize just how this war impacted Whitman. He basically spent the war working at military hospitals and directly with the troops. In this poetry we find some of his most sensitive work; sad, so very sad, but at the same time sad on a rather positive note. Whiteman always leaves us with hope. After reading this gathering of words, we find an ingenuous strength and conviction in all of his work; so strong that it touches and stays.
I have long felt (and this is a personal opinion) that the Civil War was the absolute defining moment and event in our countries history; upstaging even the Revolutionary War (If you think about it, just about any country with a few really hacked off people and a few guns can pull off a pretty decent revolution...it happens everyday around the world). To understand our country and her people and her way of life, you must understand the many aspects of the Civil War. We learn where we came from and why we are the way we are today. Through the words of such men as Whitman, we can gain in that understanding.
This is a nice cheap little book; costing very little, but it is oh so powerful. It is a delight to have this small paperback edition lying around to read a bit here and there.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Civil War Poetry and Prose," by Walt Whitman, is part of the Dover Thrift Editions series. Most of the poems are taken from the 1891-92 edition of Whitman's monumental "Leaves of Grass." The prose selections consist of two parts: journal entries taken from Whitman's "Memoranda During the War," and a selection of Whitman's letters. The book also includes a brief introductory note (pp. iii-iv) that discusses Whitman's experiences tending to hospitalized soldiers during the U.S. Civil War.
Being familiar with Whitman's poetry from other editions, I was especially fascinated by the prose selections in this volume. In these prose passages Whitman writes vividly of his encounters with sick and wounded soldiers. He seemed to have really had a life-changing experience tending to these men; in one letter he declares that these soldiers "open a new world somehow to me, giving closer insights, new things, exploring deeper mines." Whitman includes some graphic accounts of the wounds and suffering endured by the troops, and very moving descriptions of his comradeship with them. He also discusses other subjects, such as wartime atrocities, female wartime nurses, his love of the opera, and his own writing. Whitman also shares his impressions of and admiration for President Lincoln.
The poetry complements these powerful prose selections well. Overall, this collection demonstrates Whitman's compassion, his sweeping vision, and his descriptive skill. In one of the selections Whitman declares of a medical operation, "I thought the whole thing was done with tenderness, and done well"; I will say the same of the writings in this fine book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
"This dust was once the man,
Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,
Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,
Was saved the Union of these States."
Solemn, saddening, but also uplifting. Unedited; adds to the character of the time.
The first half of the book contains short and long poems. The poems come from his observations during the civil war. He begins with the splendor in the taking up of arms. His heart changes as he follows along with the troops on to the battlefields of death. He frequents the hospitals, and helps tend to the wounded.
The second half of the book contains thoughts on death, the living quarters, Lincoln's murder, atrocities, and the prisons. He spends many hours consoling and conversing with the wounded and writing to their families. The book ends with misc. letters to his mother and acquaintances.
Wish you well
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Walt Whitman is of course well known as a poet of the middle nineteenth century. His poem "Leaves of Grass" should be required reading for all American high school students. However, one almost unknown fact of his life is that he was a staunch Unionist during the American Civil War and he toured some of the battlefields after the fighting has stopped. He did what he could to comfort and nurse the wounded and the poems in this book describe his experiences. It also contains some letters he wrote to his relatives, in particular his search for his wounded brother George.
Whitman shows great compassion in his writing, even to the wounded soldiers of the Confederacy. He befriends some of them and from his descriptions of his ministrations to the soldiers; it is easy to see how he could be labeled as having homosexual tendencies. However, those passages must be read in the context of the time and place, the men he is with are severely wounded and in some cases dying, so expressions of affection on his part must be interpreted in that context. The only time he expresses hatred towards the Confederate troops is when he encounters the emaciated Union prisoners that were recently freed from Confederate POW camps.
Even in the midst of great brutality, there can be kindness, compassion and the writing of great poetry. As this collection demonstrates, Whitman was simultaneously capable of all three.
What a great book to add to your collection. You not only get some of Whitman's best poetry but also some of his personal (daily) notes and letters. I highly recommend this great work to anyone, yes anyone.
on April 22, 2015
From grim and harsh to poignant and deeply felt, these poems portray the realities and souls of so many who either fought, or lost sons, fathers, husbands, or worked in hospital tents to try to save what little they could. An important part of American history.
on September 7, 2014
I enjoyed it because I'm really interested in poetry and prose from that era. Walt Whitman saw so much and reported it the best way he knew how.....writing. All this was not so long ago....these were our original, true American ancestors.
on April 7, 2014
Walt Whitman opens up with heart felt emotion in this little book with what he saw during the Civil War. How he ministered to young men on both sides and the agony of seeing such abject suffering first hand.
on June 24, 2013
A quick, but proficient taste of Americana via the master of 19th century poetry. Cheaper than even a used bookstore, Amazon is bringing the classics to a new generation of readers. WW forever.
on December 5, 2012
I purchased this book for my American Gothic English class and we learned a lot about Walt Whitman and his involvement in the Civil War as a volunteer nurse to the soldiers.