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Sunday, October 25th, 2009 | Author:

Throughout our reading, Whitman has been a Lincoln-creeper (and I think that this was definitely solidified, when we saw the note yesterday that remarked how he had seen ‘hundreds’ of pictures of Lincoln). As I was reading this week, I tried to put Whitman not so much in the role of creepy Lincoln!fanboy, but rather as a Lincoln disciple. Although Whitman viewed himself as the poet-prophet, this was perhaps the one man who understood the unification of the nation that Whitman did. And where Whitman was the language, Lincoln was the enactor.

In “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” there are several places that reminded me of this role. First of all, there is the Christ-like imagery. I don’t believe Erkilla. The lilac-star combination actually worked toward the Christ imagery in the piece. I looked into lilacs, and they’re considered an Easter flower, thus their sense of renewal tied with Lincoln automatically recalls Christ, particularly to an audience familiar with pastoral imagery. The star, too, is interesting. Perhaps it speaks to the legend that sprang up around the time of Lincoln’s funeral; during the procession in Washington, many mourners claimed that a bright star that had never been seen before appeared in the sky that day. To many of the mourners, this would have been seen as a sign from God—this was God calling Lincoln home.

In section 10, Whitman asks, “And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love,” which is reminiscent of John 12 in which the disciple, Mary, anoints Christ just before his death with costly perfume.

Throughout this poem, the speaker’s tone strikes me as particularly lost; he questions not only the best way to mourn for his fallen comrade, but what to do after his comrade has gone. The speaker mourns and clings to death, to the comrade. In this sense, it’s rather like a servant who has been left without a master, and who slowly learns to lean on himself.

Lincoln’s roles throughout “O Captain! My Captain!” may speak for themselves; although they speak to his leadership in the nation, they also speak to the personal leadership that Whitman sees in his goal of unification. This is one of the few times (if any other) we see Whitman defer the role of “Father” to another. Whitman takes the lower, servile role in this piece, attempting to revive his fallen loved one. Although we’ve seen a change in Whitman’s egotism in the war, his deference to praise is also remarkable; the speaker insists that the it is “for you the bugle trills” and the “bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths” and the “shores a-crowding” (476). There is no “I” here whatsoever; Whitman mentions that it is “our” journey—Lincoln and Whitman’s goal—but it is Lincoln who deserves the praise and the pedestal. It is as if Whitman bows out here, like an apprentice who has helped create but is displaying the master’s work as completely his own. That relationship dynamic alone is incredible, considering Whitman’s narcissism.

In “Collect,” Lincoln’s death is listed alongside that of Napoleon’s and Socrates. Each of these figures also had a similar disciple kind of following, particularly the latter (who, interestingly enough, also has a Christ-like martyrdom). Also interesting in “Collect” is Whitman’s unworthiness; his words “never offer” (1060). Rather than have Whitman create his portrait, Whitman maintains that four others must work together to do so (three great writers, Plutarch, Eschylus, and Rabelais, and a painter, Michel Angelo). It is as if Whitman is still stressing the servile, lower stance here; he is not quite good enough to convey everything about the master that he would like to.

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Monday, October 19th, 2009 | Author:
The funeral procession in Washington en route to the capitol.

The funeral procession in Washington en route to the capitol.

Lincoln's Funeral Hearse in Washington. It was pulled by six white horses.

Lincoln's Funeral Hearse in Washington. It was pulled by six white horses.

This is the only proven picture of Lincoln in death.

This is the only proven picture of Lincoln in death.

Lincoln was shot on April 15, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC (Kunhardt 119). Within hours of his death, Washington was scrambling to work on the preparations. The undertaker worked nearly nonstop 24 hours to produce Lincoln’s $1500 coffin, which measured 6 feet 6 inches long, a tight fit for Lincoln’s 6 feet 4 inches. Curiously, the coffin was decorated with four shamrocks on each side, with a star on the center of the broadest leaf. No one had ordered this. It has also never been explained, except that perhaps the undertaker’s artist was Irish, and was told to design something meaningful (120).

Before the funeral, Lincoln’s body rested on a catafalque (a raised platform used to support a casket) in East Room of the White House. The structure stood as high as eleven feet, was eleven feet long, and was decorated with draped black velvet and crape. Designed by Benjamin B. French, it mimicked the “Lodges of Sorrow,” which are the central component in Masonic funerals. The underside of the canopy was white fluted satin, which was intended to catch the little light in the room and reflect it on the corpse’s face. Lincoln’s catafalque soon came to be known as the “Temple of Death,” because it stood in the White House a full five weeks; Mary Todd Lincoln was so distraught that she begged officials not to take it down until she had moved out of the White House (120). Although small changes have been made to reinforce the structure, Lincoln’s catafalque is still used today for the funerals of presidents; it was most recently used for former President Ford’s (121).

The public in Washington was allowed to view the body that Tuesday. Lincoln’s official funeral was scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 (130). The city was packed; over a hundred thousand people had come to watch the procession and say goodbye to the president. Most arrived already in mourning, decorated with black crape tied to their arms, or pictures of Lincoln hanging over their hearts (123), and people were scrambling for places. Window seats cost as much as $100 (147). Wednesday began with the booming of cannons from all the forts surrounding the city, as well as bells tolling from the churches and fire departments. At exactly 12:10, Dr. Hall began the Episcopal burial service. Then, Bishop Simpson of the Methodist Episcopal Church spoke, and Dr. Gurley, Lincoln’s pastor, delivered the funeral sermon (Goodrich 188). While this was going on, all over the nation, and even in Canada, there were similar services being delivered for the president (Kunhardt 129).

The procession to the capitol soon followed the funeral. Once the coffin had been loaded on to the car, which was pulled by six white horses, the bells and cannons resumed. A detachment of black soldiers led; they had been the second troop to enter Richmond upon its surrender. Black citizens made the most impressive showing of grief  out of all the mourners at the procession; nearly 4,000 walked in lines of forty straight across the road, holding hands and carrying signs. Just following the hearse was Lincoln’s favorite horse, which had been branded “U.S.” and was carrying his master’s boots backwards in the saddle (131). Once they reached the capitol, the body was then laid in the rotunda for several days, and the public was again allowed to view Lincoln.

Lincoln’s popularity and martyrdom caused an insurmountable amount of grief around the city. Lincoln was a legend, and just as when any legend dies, so do more legends and tales spring up. Some people claimed that the day of the funeral, a bright star had appeared in the sky over Washington. Another tale said that no wood thrush sang for an entire year after Lincoln’s death (132).

Mary Todd Lincoln never attended Lincoln’s funeral, or any of the following ones.  She remained in bed nearly the entire time, claiming that she was too upset. When they moved the body to the catafalque, the bearers even removed their shoes because they were afraid that she would hear their footsteps and begin screaming(Goodrich 185). Mary Todd Lincoln also spoke to spiritualists claiming to have messages from her dead husband, which did not help her  erratic nature. Nevertheless, these were the few people she would allow to see her. Eventually, Robert Lincoln put a firm stop to it in hopes that it would help soothe his mother (Kunhardt 249).

Although Lincoln’s official funeral was in Washington, DC, he was to have at least 12 more. His body was placed on a train on Friday, April 21st, so that it could travel part of the country and give citizens a chance to say goodbye . The body would end up in Springfield, where Lincoln would eventually be buried. Mary Todd Lincoln had also decided that their son, Willie, who had died three years earlier, would be exhumed and re-interred with his father (Goodrich 195). Both coffins were placed side by side in the second to last railway car and were joined by 300 passengers, containing officials, family members, and individuals integral to the cortege (Kunhardt 139).

The train’s trip was intended to include every city which the president-elect had stopped on his trip eastward to Washington in 1861: Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, and finally, home to Springfield. The only exception to this was Cincinnati, which was ruled out because they deemed the southward trip too lengthy, much to the offense of the city (140).

The train was always greeted with enormous crowds and displays of mourning, almost as if each city was trying to outdo the others. One viewer disgustedly remarked that the great show made “their mourning…a fashion…[M]any come to such sights as they would to a wax work show” (Goodrich 232). Citizens often held signs that expressed such feelings as “Abraham Lincoln, the illustrious martyr of liberty, the nation mourns his loss, though dead, he still lives” (197). Before the public was allowed to view Lincoln, the undertaker had to quickly chalk the corpse’s face to hide discoloration, as well as literally dust him off. The constant opening and closing of the coffin, as well as the dirty state of most of its visitors often left Lincoln’s body nearly caked in grime (196).

Philadelphia’s funeral was one of the few marked by violence. When the train first arrived, an artillery piece exploded prematurely, injuring two people; this was an early indicator of the violence that was soon to come (197). Before the train had even arrived, mourners stood for miles even before the station; there were no gaps in the lines that stretched as far north as the Schuylkill River and as far east as the Delaware River (Kunhardt 150). When pickpockets began terrorizing a portion of the crowd (an act that was not uncommon during the funerals;  gangs of pickpockets followed the train (Goodrich 236)), the line changed into a mob, and surged out far beyond the guiding ropes. Someone then cut the guiding ropes, which resulted in chaos. People began fighting. Many women fainted, and had to be passed out above the heads of the crowd (Kunhardt 150). Individuals also had their clothes ripped off of them, so that the streets were littered with torn petticoats and shirts (Goodrich 199). Police began sending people at the front of the mile-long line back to the end. By the end of the day, at least one woman had broken her arm, and two small boys were said to be dead, although they were later revived (Kunhardt 150). Because of the violence, police ensured a no-tolerance policy over the body; individuals were not allowed to stop and look at the body for even a second during the viewing, and many people had to be prevented from touching or even kissing Lincoln’s face (Goodrich 214).

The stop at New York was also marked with similar police action; they were said to bully the crowds and immediately escort out anyone who looked suspicious. The New York City Council ruled that colored citizens were not allowed to walk with the procession, much to the chagrin of the thousands of citizens that had come to see the president that had freed them (Kunhardt 153). However, the Secretary of War quickly sent a telegram to the city in response, begging that “no discrimination respecting color should be exercised in admitting person to the funeral procession” (154). 300 citizens marched, bearing a sign that said “Two million of bondsmen he liberty gave.” Their passing was the only time that applause broke out during the procession. Unfortunately, their dream of marching with the president did not entirely come true; the body was already out of New York and traveling up the Hudson by the time they walked(155).

When the body finally reached Illinois, the embalmers were having a lot of issues; onlookers often commented on how black the president’s face was becoming, as well as his shriveled appearance and pitted cheeks (Goodrich 242). One viewer likened him to a “mummy” (Kunhardt 240). Although he had finally gotten to his home state, Lincoln’s final resting place was still the source of much debate; Mary Todd wanted to choose the place that her husband would have wanted. Chicago was her first choice because it was where Lincoln had planned on settling after his presidency. Her second choice was the tomb built for Washington under the rotunda of the capitol (247). Finally, she decided on a cemetery outside of Springfield called “Oak Ridge,” because her husband wanted to be buried “in a quiet place” (248). Springfield citizens did not agree; they thought it was too far out of town. Instead, they purchased a stone house closer to the center of town, and began working that into a tomb. When Mary Todd Lincoln heard this, she was furious, and threatened to bury Lincoln in Chicago instead (242). The fight between the two parties grew so intense that Springfield citizens insisted Mary Lincoln had “no friends here” (249). Robert Lincoln put an end to the matter by quickly traveling to Springfield; Mary Lincoln again remained confined to her room. Finally, on May 4, 1965, nearly three weeks after Lincoln had been killed, he and his son were laid to rest . After 1700 miles (243), violence, celebration, and grief, Lincoln’s body had found its final home.

Works Cited

Goodrich, Thomas. The Darkest Dawn. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2005. Print.

Gurney, Jeremiah Jr. “Lincoln in Death.”Photograph. Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr.         Twenty Days. New York:Harper and Row Publishers, 1965, 162. Print.

Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr. Twenty Days. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1965.              Print.

“Lincoln’s Funeral Train.”Photograph. Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr.Twenty Days. New                 York:Harper and Row Publishers, 1965, 147.  Print.

“Washington During the Funeral.” Photograph. Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr.                Twenty Days. New York:Harper and Row Publishers, 1965, 130. Print.

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Monday, October 19th, 2009 | Author:

Here are some (terribly belated) pictures of our trip to the Fredericksburg Battlefield and Chatham. I’m sorry it’s taken so long; Flickr hasn’t been uploading my pictures quite right.

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Hill on which the Confederates fought

Hill on which the Confederates fought

Part of the original wall

Part of the original wall

The Innis House, which still has bullet holes from the battle in its walls

The Innis House, which still has bullet holes from the battle in its walls

One of the bullet holes in the Innis House

One of the bullet holes in the Innis House

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Inside the Innis House, where several bullet holes are also visible

Inside the Innis House, where several bullet holes are also visible

The Union Cemetary, which is hidden away behind the battlefield (unlike the Confederate one, which is in the center of town). I'm a little ashamed to say that this was a recent discovery for me.

The Union Cemetary, which is hidden away behind the battlefield (unlike the Confederate one, which is in the center of town). I'm a little ashamed to say that this was a recent discovery for me.

Hill overlooking the Union Cemetary. It really is way back away from everything.

Hill overlooking the Union Cemetary. It really is way back away from everything.

Cannons just outside the Union Cemetary

Cannons just outside the Union Cemetary

Grave of an unknown soldier.

Grave of an unknown soldier.

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Chatham House, where the military hospital was. It's much changed since Whitman saw it.

Chatham House, where the military hospital was. It's much changed since Whitman saw it.

The gardens at Chatham. These were added in the 1920s, in an effort to bring back the estate to its colonial roots.

The gardens at Chatham. These were added in the 1920s, in an effort to bring back the estate to its colonial roots.

The garden was kind of a testament to just how much things have changed since the Civil War.

The garden was kind of a testament to just how much things have changed since the Civil War.

Graffiti on the walls in Chatham

Graffiti on the walls in Chatham

More graffiti

More graffiti

These are the same catalpa trees that Whitman observed the amputated limbs by in "Speciman Days." Definitely the best part of the trip, especially since our guide had prepared a specical Whitman reading by them for us.

These are the same Catalpa trees that Whitman observed the amputated limbs by in "Speciman Days." Definitely the best part of the trip, especially since our guide had prepared a specical Whitman reading by them for us. This was also one of the places where I felt the most connected to Whitman, especially since everything else is so changed.

All right. That’s all for now. I have a written post that I’m finishing up; I’m just tweaking it so that I say exactly what I want to say in it. It’ll be here before we go to DC. I cross my heart.

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Sunday, October 18th, 2009 | Author:

While considering the questions for this week, I failed to see how Whitman’s relationship with the wounded soldiers and his relationship with the reader were all that different (aside, perhaps, from the erotic motives of the former). Or, to put it better, I couldn’t help but draw connections between the two. Whitman portrays the good uncle, the gray poet. Throughout the Civil War writing, he functions less a leader and prophet, a more a healer or empath. He unites the physically fractured soul and body of the soldier just as he unites the intellectually fractured body and soul of the reader and nation.  As Whitman tended the soldiers, bringing them fruit and giving them kind words, I even wonder if there was conscious thought that he was simultaneously extending the work of “Leaves,” and healing the men so that they might possibly be able to heal their fellow countrymen. Perhaps he did, because Price comments that it was a hope of Whitman’s that the classes would become united through knowing each other on a personal level.

Morris remarks that “The Wound Dresser” is perhaps an attempt to connect to the soldiers on a “visceral level.” Portions of “Song of Myself” too are just that–attempts to find and connect to the physical portions of the reader, in the hopes that they will learn and accept them as well.

I felt especially this sense of synchronicity within the “The Wound Dresser” (although I won’t dwell on it too much here since I should be annotating it). Whitman says, “Whoever you are, follow me without noise and be of strong heart” (443). This line is almost directly reminiscent of “Song of Myself.” The poem itself also seems to be a connection of body and soul; the first and the last portions deal with memories and dreams. They are the identity of the speaker, the old man knee deep in nostalgia. The second two are action and physicality; this is the body acting out the desires of man, unafraid in the midst of the untouchable, be it putrid or sexual. Perhaps Whitman is not a literal wound dresser here (since as Morris points out, he did not act as one; he was merely a visitor), but rather Whitman is a figurative wound dresser of nation, reader, and soldier, binding the fracture between body and soul and creating the salve of language that will heal them.

In “How Solemn as One by One,” Whitman again unites mind and body of the soldier, although he is not necessarily healing the body Instead, Whitman acknowledges the body, like so many of the “faces studying the masks” (453) (ironically, his use of “face” here dehumanizes the civilians just as much as the soldiers) and seeks to unite and find the underlying soul within, which is so often lost within the countless losses of war. Whitman’s unification here is working backwards in the way that he initially sought to bond his intellectual readers. Rather than locate the repressed body under the layers of mind and celebrated soul, Whitman must find the voice and soul of the soldier under the faceless duty of the body. He does this through persona, in poems such as “The Artilleryman’s Vision” which describe in detail the War through a soldier’s point of view. He also does this through “Speciman Days,” to remind the civilians at home that the soldiers at the front are nothing more than their fellow citizens, with the same needs as their own. Through this, Whitman again serves as bond-maker, healing the fracture that divides the individuals who have seen the horrors of war, and those who have merely read about it.

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Thursday, October 15th, 2009 | Author:

In my New Media class, we’re discussing the concepts of ARGs, which are kind of like simulated quests with storylines. Here’s a website about them: http://www.argn.com/

Anyway, one of the ARGs that the class is playing is called “Who is Grayson OziasIV, and where is his fortune?” It’s sponsored by our friends at Levi Strauss, and so guess who the game features? None other than our buddy Whitman. The players have been issued various clues (audio files, videos, images, etc), and they’re supposed to go find objects that the leaders have hidden, which lead to more clues, which will eventually lead to $100,000. The first set of clues led everyone to New York, and then later, to New Orleans, where someone was given an 1884 edition of “Leaves of Grass” by a strange man in a hat (I’m serious). Now, the players are following a Benedict cipher through the poems.

You can follow Grayson OziasIV on Twitter (http://twitter.com/GraysonOziasIV). If you do, every day he tweets several quotes from “Leaves,” with most of them being from “Song of Myself.” No one’s sure what to do with these yet. I bet one of the clues will eventually lead somewhere near Fredericksburg. Anybody else feel like playing?

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Sunday, October 04th, 2009 | Author:

When we talk the periods of Whitman’s writing (or even every individual edition), Isometimes feel as if we’re talking about a different person, or at least something vaguely schizophrenic. Whitman goes through so much in the war; he goes from being the man who feels all and yet has done very little (in terms of the size of the nation, at least), to the man who focuses specifically on a group of men. He changes, and because poetry tends to reflect our inner thoughts, so does his poetry.

It would be fantastic if  those two selves would merge. While I don’t want him to change, necessarily, it would be great if we could get the best of both Whitmans.  The hopeful voice of the poet-prophet tends to get lost in the pain of the war, and the inexperience of the 1855 poet-prophet needs to be tempered by the experience of man. “Over the Carnage Rose a Prophetic Voice” captures such a sense of the two selves merging, at least in the later version. The initial version, published in the 1860 edition, is radically different (here, if you like).

Whitman’s ideas remain the same throughout both pieces. There’s a sense of unification here, for Whitman, for the nation, and for the people. 1855 Whitman lists his nations, and War Whitman connects each nation with its geographical counterpart. Missouri finds its mate in Massachusetts, and Michigan, Florida. The Calamus Whitman is also found in both versions of the text; Whitman challenges the reader:

(Were you looking to be held together by lawyers?

Or by an agreement on a paper? or by arms?

Nay, nor the world, nor any living thing, will so cohere.)

Our nation is not one to be unified by proclamations, laws, or by armistices; not even our president can hold us together. It’s not even Whitman, really. The preceding wars have taught everyone that no one person or institution can hold such a diverse nation. Instead, it is the people that 1855 Whitman has mentioned, the prostitute and the sailor and the slave. It is the “comrades,” “lovers,” and “manly affection” (449) that is so prevalent in Calamus.

1855 Whitman is so evident in the 1860 version. His ego-centrism spills off the page. It is he who will “make the continent indissoluble,” and “plant companionship.” Whitman, the divine poet-prophet, takes everything upon himself. He is the action that we will follow, and he can’t resist reminding us that it is his words that give the nation hope. Whitman is the devoted “femme” of democracy, and will do everything to help its progeny. It’s easy to find the man who empathizes with everyone but has experienced very little here.

When we get to 1867, Whitman has seen the work of man. He’s seen his beloved nation fracture, and the people themselves break apart and be destroyed much in the same way. His words haven’t led the nation in the sense of manly love—at least, not yet. In 1867, most evidence of Whitman’s actions is taken out. Whitman’s words are there; his voice rises, and he checks the reader, reminding them that neither laws nor papers will hold a people together. But that’s all the poet-prophet is, a prophet. The result is much quieter; 1860 has a flurry of exclamation points. Whitman can barely contain his exhilaration and hope on the page. In 1867, it’s up to the people themselves for the “manly affection” (449) that Whitman puts such hope in. His faith in it is more hopeful; he doesn’t proclamate (there are a ton of “there shall be…!”s in the other version), but he looks toward the future. It’s easier to trust this reflective speaker, rather than the agitated and overly excited 1860 one.

So, yes. I think that as a man changes, his poetry needs to change. Whitman saw himself in his poetry. It was a reflection of his inner-self, and as he changed and his ideas changed, so did Leaves. But maybe it doesn’t so much have to be a change as it is a tempering and merging, especially in Whitman’s case.

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Friday, October 02nd, 2009 | Author:

Hey Guys,

Group A is staking a claim on “The Wound Dresser.”

Love,

Meg

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