"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom" is one of Walt Whitman's (1819–912) most renowned poems. Whitman presents an elegy to Abraham Lincoln in 206 lines of creative free poetry. Lincoln was slain just before Whitman penned the poem. It has been suggested that the title refers to the last lilacs of summer.
Whitman was a US poet who lived during the early part of the 19th century. He was a strong supporter of President Lincoln and his ideals. In fact, he wrote many poems about him and their interactions. "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom" is one of these poems.
Lilacs are small purple flowers that appear only once every three years. They usually bloom between April and May. This poem was written shortly after Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre on 14 April 1865. The lilacs were probably the only thing growing in Whitman's dooryard at the time and so they represent springtime for him.
It continues like this for another 11 lines before ending with these words: "And now forlorn! I hear no song-birds, / No voice but mine as I write.
Whitman had attended Lincoln's second inauguration just weeks before his death. While the event of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is President Lincoln's assassination, the subject, in the style of elegy, is both other and larger than the occasion. The poem is about the passing of an age and a beauty that was unique.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. Whitman wrote "Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" two days later. It was first published in the New York Tribune on April 16, 1865 (available on Google Books).
According to the poem's subtitle, it was composed on April 19, 1865, four days after Lincoln's death. Whitman was dissatisfied with the poem and vowed to produce a suitable poem to commemorate Lincoln's death. He never did so, but almost twenty years later he wrote another tribute to Lincoln, called "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."
Lilacs have been used as a symbol of commemoration since they were first planted by George Washington upon his home farm at Mount Vernon. The flower became associated with mourning because its pale pink flowers often fade before they fully open, suggesting that others should soon follow the death that has robbed us of their parent.
Whitman was deeply affected by Lincoln's death and wrote several poems about him. In this poem, he pays homage to both men and compares their deaths in an attempt to understand why God would want two great people like them to die.
The poem is divided into four parts, each beginning with the word "where". The first two parts discuss places where we will be reunited with those who died. The third part examines what happens when one person dies. And the final part tells what will happen when many people die.
As a way of dealing with both the population growth and the massive deaths during the Civil War, Whitman focused on the life cycles of individuals: people are born, they age and reproduce, and they die. Such poems as "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom" imagine death as an integral part of life. Humans cannot escape it, nor should we want to; it is natural and necessary.
Whitman also uses nature as a metaphor for human society. In one of his most famous poems, "I Sing the Body Electric," he imagines all living things are joined by electric currents flowing through them. This connection with nature makes humans part of something greater than themselves and gives hope for future generations.
Finally, the theme of the poem is optimism. Even though war is described as "this day's work," tomorrow will bring more of the same. People should not let their fear of death prevent them from enjoying life while they can.
These are just some of the many themes contained in Walt Whitman's poetry. If you read every line of this anthology, you would learn much about nineteenth-century America while improving your reading skills at the same time!
Walt Whitman is America's global poet, the modern equivalent of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare. He honored democracy, nature, love, and friendship in Leaves of Grass (1855; 1891-2). This gigantic work sang accolades to both the body and the spirit, and it found beauty and reassurance even in death. The book became a landmark of the self-made American artist.
Whitman was a great celebrant of life. His poetry is full of vitality and energy. He wrote about what he saw around him and sent up a prayer for his fellow humans at the end of each poem or song. But more than this, he was an advocate for freedom who dared to believe that humanity was capable of greater things than war. Above all, Whitman sought to unite people rather than divide them with his beliefs and actions.
He grew up in a small town in New York State and later made his home in Brooklyn. Although he traveled a lot, especially during his years as a hired hand on a farm in Illinois, Whitman always returned to America and lived out his dream of being able to make a living by writing.
Whitman tried his hand at many different careers before he finally decided to go into journalism. He worked as an editor for several newspapers before he had his first big success with Poems (1850). After this came another collection of poems, Leaves of Grass (1855), which made him famous all over America.
Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) was a notable American writer of the nineteenth century, and many commentators regard him as the country's finest poet. He is most known for his novel "Leaves of Grass," which he reworked and enlarged throughout his life. It is a work of American literature. His other major works include poems, essays, reviews, and lyrics.
Whitman was born in Long Island, New York, the second child of John Whitman and Anne Coleman. His father was from a well-off family who owned land, while his mother was from a poor farming family. He had two older siblings: Elizabeth and Charles. The family moved to Washington, D.C., when Walt was young so that John could take a position with the Internal Revenue Service. Here, he met and married Louisa Van Velsor.
At the age of 21, after graduating from Georgetown University, Whitman traveled to Camden, New Jersey, where he worked as an assistant editor at the weekly newspaper, The Courier. While here, he met Harriet Hosmer, a famous sculptor, who became his wife in 1846. They had three children together: Rosalie, Helen, and Wallace. After five years, Whitman left the marriage to travel in Europe for several years. Upon his return, he took a job with the U.S. Customs Service in New York City.