University of Nebraska Scholar Finds What She Believes Is an Undiscovered Poem by Walt Whitman

WendyKatzWendy Katz, an associate professor of art history at the University of Nebraska, was conducting a research project on art criticism in nineteenth-century newspapers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She came across a poem in the June 23, 1842 issue of New Era entitled “To Bryant, the Poet of Nature.” The poem addresses William Cullen Bryant, a poet who was at that time editor of the New York Evening Post.

The poem was signed simply “W.W.” But Dr. Katz believes the poem was written by Walt Whitman. She wrote an article in the most recent issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly that explains her theory that the poem was written by Whitman. “The peer review process meant that the editor of the journal and two other scholars felt that the argument was persuasive,” Dr. Katz said.

Dr. Katz is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Here is the text of the 1842 poem:

To Bryant, the Poet of Nature

Let Glory diadem the mighty dead—

Let monuments of brass and marble rise

To those who have upon our being shed

A golden halo, borrowed from the skies,

And given to time its most enduring prize;

For they but little less than angels were:

But not to thee, oh! nature’s OWN, we should

(When from this clod the minstrel-soul aspires

And joins the glorious band of purer lyres)

Tall columns build: thy monument is here—

For ever fixed in its eternity—

A monument God-built! ‘Tis seen around—

In mountains huge and many gliding streams—

Where’er the torrent lifts a melancholy sound,

Or modest flower in broad savannah gleams.

— W.W.

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  1. Martin Steingesser says:

    That is not Walt Whitman!

  2. Carol Willette Bachofner says:

    I trust there will be further investigation into this; I think there is a possibility!

  3. Anne Hammond says:

    Martin is right! Neither the diction, the length of line, the rhyme scheme refers to Whitman’s writing we all know.

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