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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
Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete, 
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy
   dear son.

Lo, 'tis autumn, 
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the
   moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in
poem
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it
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1

Singing my days,   
Singing the great achievements of the present,   
Singing the strong, light works of engineers,   
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)   
In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,   
The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle