Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2012, Volume 33

Live Oak, with Moss.

by Walt WhitmanEdited by Steven Olsen-Smith
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Live Oak, with Moss. [1]

I.

Not the heat flames up and con-
     sumes,
Not the sea-waves hurry in and
      out,
Not the air, delicious and dry, the
      air of the ripe summer, bears
      lightly along white down-balls
      of myriads of seeds, wafted,
      sailing gracefully, to drop
      where they may,
Not these—O none of these, more
      than the flames of me, con-
     suming, burning for his love
      whom I love—O none, more
      than I, hurrying in and out;
Does the tide hurry, seeking some-
     thing [2] and never give up?—O
      I, the same, to [3] seek my life-long
      lover;
O nor down-balls, nor perfumes, nor
      the high rain-emitting clouds,
      are borne through the open air,
      more than my copious soul is
      borne through the open air, wafted
      in all directions, for friendship, for
      love.—
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II. [4]

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, glistening out with [5]
      joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending,
      lusty, made me think of
      myself;
But I wondered how it could
      utter joyous leaves, standing
      alone there without its friend,
      its lover—For I knew I could
      not;
And I plucked a twig with
      a certain number of leaves
      upon it, and twined around
      it a little moss, and brought
      it away—And I have placed
      it in sight in my room,
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It is not needed to remind
      me as of my friends, (for I
      believe ^lately [6] I think of little
      else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a
      curious token—I write
      these pieces, and name
      them after it; [7]
For all that, and though the
      live oak [8] glistens there in Louis-
     iana, solitary in a wide
      flat space, uttering joyous
      leaves all its life, without
      a friend, a lover, near—I
      know very well I could
      not.
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III. [9]

When I heard at the close of
      the day how I had been
      praised in the Capitol, still
      it was not a happy night
      for me that followed; [10]
And else, [11] when I caroused—Or [12]
      when my plans [13] were accom-
     plished—it was well enough— [14]
      Still I was not happy; [15]
But that the [16] day when [17] I rose
      at dawn from the bed of
      perfect health, electric, in-
     haling sweet breath,
When I saw the full moon
      in the west grow pale and
      disappear in the morning light,
When I wandered alone over the
      beach, and undressing, bathed,
      laughing with the waters, and
      saw the sun rise,
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And when I thought how
      my friend, my lover, was
      coming, then I [18] was happy;
O then each [19] breath tasted
      sweeter—and all that day my
      food nourished me more—And
      the beautiful day passed well,
And the next came with equal
      joy—And with the next, [20] at
      evening, came my friend,
And that night, O you happy
      waters, I heard you beating
      the shores—But my heart
      beat happier than you—for
      he I love was [21] returned and
      sleeping by my side,
And that night in the stillness
      his face was inclined toward
      me, while the moon's clear
      beams shone,
And his arm lay lightly over my
      breast—And that night I
      was happy. [22]
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IV.

This moment as I sit alone,
      yearning and pensive, it
      seems to me there are other
      men, in other lands, yearning
      and pensive.
It [23] seems to me I can look
      over and behold them, in
      Germany, France, Spain—Or
      far away in China, or in [24]
      Russia—talking other dialects, [25]
And it seems to me if I
      could know those men better [26]
      I should love them as I
      love men in my own lands,
It seems to me they are as
      wise, beautiful, benevolent,
      as any in my own lands;
O I know we should be
      brethren—I know [27] I should
      be happy with them.
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V.

Long I thought that knowledge
      alone would suffice me—O
      if I could but obtain
      knowledge!
Then my lands [28] engrossed me— [29]
      For them I would live—I
      would be their orator;
Then I met the examples of old
      and new heroes—I heard the
      examples [30] of warriors, sailors,
      and all dauntless persons—
      And it seemed to me I too
      had it in me to be as
      dauntless as any, and would
      be so;
And then to finish all, it
      came to me to strike up the
      songs of the New World—And
      then I believed my life must
      be spent in singing;
But now take notice, Land of
      the prairies, Land of the south
      savannas, Ohio's land,
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Take notice, you Kanuck woods
      —and you, Lake [31] Huron—and
      all that with you roll toward
      Niagara—and you Niagara
      also,
And you, Californian mountains—
      that you all find some one else
      that he be your singer of songs,
For I can be your singer of songs
      no longer—I have passed ahead— [32]
      I have ceased to enjoy them.
I have found him who loves me,
      as I him, in perfect love,
With the rest I dispense—I sever
      from all that I thought would
      suffice me, for it does not—it
      is now empty and tasteless
      to me,
I heed knowledge, and the grandeur
      of The States, and the examples
      of heroes, no more,
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I am indifferent to my own
      songs—I am to go with
      him I love, and he is to
      go with me,
It is to be enough for each
      of us that we are together—
      We never separate again.—
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VI.

What think you I have
      taken my pen to record?
Not the battle-ship, perfect-
      model'd, majestic, that I saw
      to day arrive in the offing,
      under full sail,
Nor the splendors of the past
      day—nor the splendors of
      the night that envelopes me—
      Nor the glory and growth of
      the great city spread around
      me,
But the two youngmen [33] I saw
      to-day on the pier, parting
      the parting of dear friends.
The one who to remained remain [34] hung on
      the other's neck and passionately
      kissed him—while the one
      who departed to depart [35] tightly prest the
      one who remained to remain [36] in his arms.
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VII.

You bards of ages hence! [37] when
      you refer to me, mind not
      so much my poems,
Nor speak of me that I pro-
     phesied of The States and led
      them the way of their glories,
But come, I will inform you
      who I was underneath that
      impassive exterior—I will
      tell you what to say of me,
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Publish my name and hang up
      my picture as that of the
      tenderest lover,
The friend, the lover's portrait, of
      whom his friend, his lover,
      was fondest,
Who was not proud of his songs,
      but of the measureless ocean
      of love within him—and
      freely poured it forth,
Who often walked lonesome walks
      thinking of his dearest friends,
      his lovers,
Who pensive, away from one he
      loved, often lay sleepless and [38]
      dissatisfied at night,
Who, dreading lest the one he loved
      might after all be indifferent
      to him, felt the sick feeling—
      O sick! sick!
Whose happiest days were those, far
      away ^through fields, [39] in woods, or on [40] hills, he
      and another, wandering hand in
      hand, they twain, apart from
      other men.
Who ever, as he sauntered the
      streets, curved with his arm
      the manly shoulder of his
      friend—while the curving
      arm of his friend rested
      upon him also.
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VIII. [41]

Hours continuing long, sore
      and heavy-hearted,
Hours of the dusk, [42] when I
      withdraw to a lonesome and
      unfrequented spot, seating [43]
      myself, leaning my face
      in my hands,
Hours sleepless, deep in the night,
      when I go forth, speeding
      swiftly the country roads, or
      through the city streets, or
      pacing miles and miles, stifling
      plaintive cries,
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Hours discouraged, distracted,
      —For he, the one I cannot
      content myself without—
      soon I saw him content [44]
      himself without me,
Hours when I am forgotten [45]
      (O weeks and months are
      passing, but I believe I am
      never to forget!)
Sullen and suffering hours—
      (I am ashamed—but it is
      useless—I am what I am;)
Hours of my [46] torment—I
      wonder if other men ever
      have the like, out of the
      like feelings?
Is there even one other like
      me [47] —distracted—his friend,
      his lover, lost to him?
Is he too as I am now? Does
      he still rise in the morning,
      dejected, thinking who is lost to him? [48]
      And at night, awaking, think who is
      lost?
Does he too harbor his friendship si-
     lent and endless? Harbor his anguish
      and passion?
Does some stray reminder, or the
      casual mention of a name, bring
      the fit back upon him, taciturn
      and deprest?
Does he see himself reflected in me?
      In these hours does he see the
      face of his hours reflected?
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IX.

I dreamed in a dream of a
      city where all the men
      were like brothers,
O I saw them tenderly love
      each other—I often saw
      them, in numbers, walking
      hand in hand;
I dreamed that was the city
      of robust friends—Nothing
      was greater there than the
      quality of [49] manly love—it
      led the rest,
It was seen every hour in the
      actions of the men of that city,
      and in all their looks and
      words.—
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X. [50]

O you whom I ^often and [51] silently come
      where you [52] are, that
      I may be with you,
As I walk by your side, or
      sit near, or remain in
      the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle
      electric fire that for
      your sake is playing
      within me.—
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XI.

Earth! My likeness! [53] Though
      you look so impassive,
      ample and spheric ^there, , [54]
      —I now suspect that
      is not all,
I now suspect there is
      something terrible in you,
      ready to break forth,
For [55] an athlete loves me,
      —and I him—But toward
      him there is something
      fierce and terrible in me,
I dare not tell it in words—
      not even in these songs.
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XII. [56]

To the young man, many
      things to absorb, to engraft,
      to develope, [57] I teach, that
      he be my eleve,
But if through him rolls [58]
      not the blood [59] of
      divine [60] friendship, hot
      and red—If he be not
      silently selected by lovers,
      and do not silently select
      lovers—of what use were
      it for him to seek to
      become eleve of mine? [61]
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Notes

1. Title: Live Oak, with Moss.] Struck out by a single horizontal line, with the title "Calamus-Leaves" and a period inscribed above—all in light brown ink. Go
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2. 1.5: something] A horizontal blue pencil line has been supplied under an end-line double hyphen following "some." If intended for hyphenation, as Bowers seems to assert ("the hyphen has been mended in blue pencil"), the blue line is superfluous because the double hyphen is clearly legible; see Whitman's Manuscripts: Leaves of Grass (1860) A Parallel Text (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), 92 (hereafter cited parenthetically). Go
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3. 1.5: to] The "t" is superimposed over a smudged letter or letters, possibly "th." Go
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4. 2: II.] The period is omitted by Whitman, and is supplied here following the precedent established in his heading to Poem I and observed by him in headings IV through IX and XI. Go
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5. 2.3: with] Crossed out in pencil. Go
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6. 2.7: lately] Interlined with a caret in black ink. Go
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7. 2.8: I write . . . after it] Struck out by horizontal lines, with "—it makes me think of manly love." interlined above—all in light brown ink. Go
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8. 2.9: live oak] Interlined with a caret above "tree," which is struck out by a diagonal slash; unnoted by Bowers (102), in "live" Whitman initially inscribed an f and subsequently over-wrote it with a v, probably before going on to inscribe the terminal e—all in black ink. Go
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9. 3: III.] The period is omitted by Whitman, and is supplied here following the precedent established in his heading to Poem I and observed by him in headings IV through IX and XI. Go
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10. 3.1: followed] The ending "ed" is superimposed over "d" in the same ink. Go
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11. 3.2: And else,] Crossed out, with "Nor" substituted above—all in pencil. Go
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12. 3.2: Or] Crossed out at the line ending, with a dash interlined above, and "—Nor" interlined with a caret at the start of the next line before "when"—all in pencil. Go
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13. 3.2: my plans] The word "favorite" is interlined with a caret in pencil between "my" and "plans". Go
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14. 3.2: it was well enough] Crossed out, with "was I really happy," interlined above—all in pencil. Go
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15. 3.2: Still I was not happy] Crossed out in pencil. Go
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16. 3.3: the] Interlined above "that," which is struck out by a diagonal slash—all in black ink. The substitution of "the" was subsequently amended in pencil to "that". This was later entirely crossed out in pencil, again with the substitution of "the" in pencil, which was later struck out yet again, with "that" restored in pencil. The original black ink substitution is observed here. Go
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17. 3.3: when] Crossed out in pencil, with another "when" later interlined and then crossed out in pencil. Go
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18. 3.6: then I] The upper-case letter "O" is interlined with a caret (both in pencil) between "then" and "I". Go
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19. 3.7: O then each] "O" crossed out, with "then" emended to "Then"—all in pencil. Later, "Then" was crossed out, with "each" emended to "Each"—all in pencil. Go
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20. 3.8: next,] Bowers identifies the comma as accidentally smudged by Whitman in the process of erasing "some illegible word" beneath it (88), but no such erasure is evident. The comma is instead largely obscured by a layer of paste transferred in the process of Whitman's paste-over revision of lines 24-26, and Bowers seems to have mistaken contours in the dried paste (likely applied by Whitman's thumb print or finger print) for an erased word. Go
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21. 3.9: was] Bowers erroneously reads "is" (88). Go
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22. 3.9-11: And that night . . . I was happy] Canceled by a paste-over leaf, on which the following four lines are substituted in a black ink ({i} signifies an insertion in the same ink): And that night, while all
      was still, I heard the
      waters roll slowly continually
      up the shores
I heard the hissing rustle of
      the liqu{i}d and sands, as directed
      to me, whispering to congratulate
      me,—For the friend I love lay
      sleeping by my side,
In the stillness his face was in-
     clined towards me, while the
      moon's clear beams shone,
And his arm lay lightly over my
      breast—And that night I was happy.
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23. 4.2: It] As Bowers observes, "Whitman began the line with 'I,' and then emended it to a t, prefixing capital I," in effect beginning the line anew at a point closer to the right edge of the leaf, and at a position more closely aligned with the starting point of line 27 directly above (106). Go
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24. 4.2: China, or in] The word "India" and a comma are interlined with a caret between "China," and "or"; the word "in" (immediately preceding "Russia") is crossed out—all in pencil. Go
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25. 4.2: dialects,] The comma is faint here not from erasure but apparently a flaw at the point of Whitman's pen, as further indicated by similar imperfections in the script from here to the end of the leaf. That Whitman paused in transcription to replace or repair his implement is indicated by the absence of such flaws on the following leaf 8, which contains the first 5 lines of Poem V. Go
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26. 4.3: better] Crossed out, with a comma interlined after "men" but later crossed out—all in pencil. Go
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27. 4.5: know . . . know] Both instances of "know" are crossed out, with "think" interlined above at both points—all in pencil. Go
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28. 5.2: my lands] Struck out by a single line, with "the Land of the Prairies" interlined above—all in pencil. Go
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29. 5.2: me—] Interlined above "me" in pencil is the clause "—the south Savannahs engrossed me—". Go
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30. 5.3: I heard the examples] The clause, "the examples" is struck out by diagonal slashes in black ink. Go
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31. 5.6: Lake] Originally inscribed with a lower case "l," but emended to upper case in the same ink. Go
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32. 5.8: I have passed ahead—] Crossed out in pencil. Go
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33. 6.4: two men] The word, "young" is struck out by diagonal slashes in between "two" and "men" in black ink. Go
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34. 6.5: to remain] Interlined above "who remained," which is struck out by diagonal slashes—all in black ink. Go
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35. 6.5: to depart] Interlined above "who departed," which is struck out by a horizontal line—all in black ink. Go
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36. 6.5: to remain] Interlined above "who remained," which is struck out by a horizontal line—all in black ink. Go
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37. 7.1: !] Added above a comma, which is struck out by diagonal slashes—all in black ink. Go
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38. 7.8: and] The "a" overwrites an illegible letter in the same ink. Go
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39. 7.10: through fields,] Interlined with a caret in black ink. Go
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40. 7.10: woods, on] Preceding "on" is the word "or", crossed out in black ink. Go
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41. 8: VIII.] Supplied in black ink above canceled "IX." The poem overwrites an erased pencil inscription, "finished in the other city" within enlarged parentheses. Go
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42. 8.2: dusk] It is not clear whether the "k" is "heavily mended," as Bowers asserts (83), or inadvertently smudged. Go
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43. 8.2: seating] As Bowers observes, the "ing" overwrites a smudge that may have been an "ed" that was effaced while the ink was still wet (82). Go
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44. 8.4: him content] The "c" overwrites an aborted pen stroke in the same ink. Go
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45. 8.5: forgotten] The "en" overwrites unidentified letters in the same ink. Go
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46. 8.7: my] Omitted by Bowers (84). Go
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47. 8.8: me] Bowers asserts "me" to be "written over a smudge, probably representing an erasure" (84). As with "lost to" directly below, the "smudge" is in fact dried glue transferred from the point where original notebook leaf 14 and the top portion of 15 were joined (between lines 69 and 70 above). The displaced glue was wiped by Whitman using a thumb or finger, the print of which is discernable at the spot. Go
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48. 8.9: lost to] Bowers asserts "lost to him?" to be "written over a smudged erasure" (84). As with "me" directly above, the "smudged erasure" is in fact dried glue transferred from the point where original notebook leaf 14 and the top portion of 15 were joined (between lines 69 and 70 above). The displaced glue was wiped by Whitman using a thumb or finger, the print of which is discernable at the spot. An identical situation appears at the end of the line with "lost?", unnoted by Bowers. Go
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49. 9.3: the quality of] Crossed out in pencil. Go
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50. 10: X.] The period is omitted by Whitman, and is supplied here following the precedent established in his heading to Poem I and observed by him in headings IV through IX and XI. Go
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51. 10.1: often and] Interlined with a caret in black ink. Go
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52. 10.1: where you] Preceding "you" is the word "I", struck out by diagonal slashes in black ink. Go
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53. 11.1: My likeness!] Struck out by diagonal slashes in black ink. The "n" in "likeness" is smeared but not verifiably "mended over some smudged-out letter," as Bowers asserts (114). Go
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54. 11.1: spheric there] Unnoted by Bowers (114), the line originally ended with a period at "spheric," presumably in error. Whitman added "there" followed by a comma or (less likely) a semi-colon, which he wiped out while the ink was still wet. He neglected to cancel the period following "spheric," which is omitted here. Go
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55. 11.3: For] The "o" in "For" is smeared and perhaps written over an "a", as reported by Bowers (114). Also noted by Bowers, in the same ink Whitman used a caret to insert an em dash before "and" at the start of the next textual line (114). The revision observes faithfully Whitman's canceled draft version of this poem, where the opening em dash was retained when Whitman interlined "and I him—but" (see Whitman Archive loc.0025.001 <http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/figures/loc.00225.001.jpg>.Go
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56. 12: XII.] The period is omitted by Whitman, and is supplied here following the precedent established in his heading to Poem I and observed by him in headings IV through IX and XI. Go
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57. 12.1: develope] Terminal "e" struck out in pencil. Go
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58. 12.2: rolls] Crossed out, with the word "speed" interlined above—all in pencil. Go
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59. 12.2: the blood] Preceding "blood" is the word "red," struck out by diagonal slashes in black ink. Go
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60. 12.2: divine] Crossed out in pencil. Go
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61. 12.2: mine?] The lower portion of the question mark is smudged, but not verifiably inserted or emended, as suggested by Bowers (119). Go
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