Interviews and Reminiscences

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman at the Poe Funeral

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: November 18, 1875

Whitman Archive ID: med.00523

Source: Evening Star 18 November 1875: 2. Our transcription is based on a digital image of a microfilm copy of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the interviews, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney and Shea Montgomerey

image 1


Conspicuous Absence of the Popular Poets.—

About the most significant part of the Poe re-burial ceremonies yesterday—which only a crowded and remarkably magnetic audience of the very best class of young people, women preponderating, prevented from growing tedious—was the marked absence from the spot of every popular poet and author, American and foreign. Only Walt Whitman was present. Being in Washington on a visit at the time, "the old gray" went over to Baltimore, and though ill from paralysis, consented to hobble up and silently take a seat on the platform, but refused to make any speech, saying, "I have felt a strong impulse to come over and be here today myself in memory of Poe, which I have obeyed; but not the slightest impulse to make a speech, which, my dear friends, must also be obeyed."

In an informal circle, however, in conversation after the ceremonies, Whitman said: "For a long while, and until lately, I had a distaste for Poe's writings. I wanted, and still want, for poetry, the clear sun shining, and fresh air blowing—the strength and power of health, not of delirium, even amid the stormiest passions—with always the background of the eternal moralities. Non-complying with these requirements, Poe's genius has yet conquered a special recognition for itself, and I too have come to fully admit it, and to appreciate it and him. Even my own objections draw me to him at last; and those very points, with his sad fate, will make him dearer to young and fervid minds.

"In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a storm. It was no great full-rigged ship, nor majestic steamer, steering firmly through the gale, but seemed one of those superb little schooner-yachts I had often seen lying anchored, rocking so jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up Long Island sound; now flying uncontroled with torn sails and broken spars through the wild sleet and winds and waves of the night. On deck was a slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all the terror, the murk, the wierdness and the dislocation of which he was the center and the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his poems—themselves all lurid dreams."


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