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Presiding over each episode of this interrelated whole is the prophetic figure of the poet Walt Whitman, who promised his future readers, "It avails not, neither time or place . . . I am with you, and know how it is." Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city and a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny. It is a work of surpassing power and beauty by one of the most original and daring writers at work today.
Compiled when the great poet was 70 years old, November Boughs offers verse and prose reminiscences of a singular American life. Walt Whitman's reflections begin with the essay "A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads," in which he discusses the genesis of his most famous and controversial book, Leaves of Grass. A selection of poetry titled "Sands at Seventy" is followed by a series of essays and recollections that include "Slang in America," "What Lurks Behind Shakespeare's Historical Plays," "The Old Bowery," and notes on the life of the Quaker abolitionist Elias Hicks, whose body — it was rumored — he and a youthful group of friends once attempted to exhume.
This affordable, high-quality edition of a rare book of poetry and prose provides a greater context for the interpretation of Whitman's other works. Essential reading for Whitman scholars, this volume is also of interest to historians of the Civil War, abolitionism, and nineteenth-century America.