poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

“When I Read the Book” was published in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass (James R. Osgood, 1881). 

When I Read the Book

When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real         life,
Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections
I seek for my own use to trace out here.)

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Born on May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman is the author of Leaves of Grass and, along with Emily Dickinson, is considered one of the architects of a uniquely American poetic voice. 

by this poet

poem
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the
poem

Who has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of the earth,
And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
And who has been happiest? O I think it is I—I think no one was ever happier than I,
And who has lavish'd all? for I lavish

poem
1

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,   
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,   
I mourn'd—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.   
   
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;   
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of