Walt Whitman was a famous American poet born on Long Island, New York in 1819. His work is classified as romanticism, and it will not be difficult to pinpoint why when you begin to read his quotes below. Whitman’s father was a homebuilder, and his mother cared for him and his eight siblings in their homes on Long Island and in Brooklyn.
Whitman began training to become a printer at the age of twelve, which is where he fell in love with reading and writing. He was self-taught in this hobby, for the most part, but read many of the classics like Dante, Homer, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Unfortunately, Whitman’s printing days were cut short when a fire destroyed New York’s printing district.
After his career as a printer ended, Whitman became a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse on Long Island, and he continued to teach until 1841 when he became a full-time journalist. He founded The Long-Islander, which was a weekly newspaper, and proceeded to edit papers in both Brooklyn and New York in later years. He also edited a paper in New Orleans.
Back in Brooklyn, Whitman continued developing his unique style of poetry, and in 1855 he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The book included twelve poems, all untitled, and a preface. He self-published the volume after taking out a copyright on the material and sent a copy to Ralph Waldo Emerson who was astonished by the stylistic choices in Whitman’s work.
Over time Whitman continued to publish editions of Leaves of Grass and other works. He went back to being a journalist at the onset of the Civil War and used this career to visit the wounded at hospitals around New York City. He headed to Washington DC to take care of his brother who was injured in the war and decided to stay after seeing the devastation of the wounded there.
Whitman held several other jobs while in DC and was even fired from one when his employer found out that he had written Leaves of Grass because the employer found the work offensive.
Walt Whitman is considered to be one of America’s most important poets, along with Emily Dickinson. Students study his work and his life regularly in poetry classes, English and literature classes, and others. He is well known for seven editions of Leaves of Grass, as well as four other poetic works and five works of prose.
Walt Whitman Quotes
Because Walt Whitman is an important figure in American history and poetry, we decided to compile a list of quotes that will help you know him, inspire you, and possibly confuse you. He was a complex man and was full of both brilliant insights and simple understandings of God and the universe. We have categorized these Walt Whitman quotes for your browsing pleasure.
- “We were together. I forget the rest.”
- “Not ‘til the sun excludes you do I exclude you.”
- “What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.”
- “In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.”
- “Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”
Concerning the Divine
- “God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to his impossible standards.”
- “Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.”
- “Every hour of every day is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”
- “In the faces of men and women, I see God.”
- “I swear to you; there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.”
- “When one reaches out to help another he touches the face of God.”
- “I say to mankind, be not curious about God. For I, who am curious about each, am not curious about God—I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God, not in the least.”
To Inspire You
- “Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.”
- “Be curious, not judgmental.”
- “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering… these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.”
- “I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess.”
- “I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and can be none in the future, and I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn’d to beautiful results, and I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death, and I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are compact, and that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles each as profound as any.”
- “Each of us inevitable, each of us limitless- each of us with his or her right upon the Earth, each of us here as divinely as any is here.”
- “Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as much as you. Each has his or her place in the procession.”
- “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
- “Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself… it is not far; it is within reach, perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know.”
- “Either define the moment or the moment will define you.”
- “Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.”
- “Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall; battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.”
- “Nothing endures but personal qualities.”
- “Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.”
To Find Truth and Find Yourself
- “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.”
- “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”
- “Man is born of woman, be not ashamed women, you are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.”
- “You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”
- “Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.”
- “The road to wisdom is paved with excess. The mark of a true writer is their ability to mystify the familiar and familiarize the strange.”
- “I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen, and accrue what I hear into myself… and let sound contribute toward me.”
- “The truth is simple. If it was complicated, everyone would understand it.”
Other Important Walt Whitman Quotes We Love
- “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”
- “Simplicity is the glory of expression.”
- “I am satisfied… I see, dance, laugh, sing.”
- “Give me the splendid, silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling.”
- “I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.”
- “After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains.”
- “The future is no more uncertain than the present.”
Our Final Thoughts
Walt Whitman was a unique man with a unique perspective. He lived through volatile times and was often a source of confusion for those who read his works. It seems that few could pin down his true feelings on race relations during the Civil War since he would often disagree with what abolitionists said, but was a strong proponent for the humanity and divinity in all of us.
Even from the quotes above you can see some of the contradictions that appear in Whitman’s work regarding God. He was constantly trying to learn more about the human condition and was able to put into his writing his thoughts on all subjects as they morphed over the years.
Whitman was an accomplished writer even while he pursued other careers and callings. His quotes are used today for weddings, funerals, inspiration, and much more. We hope that you found a few Walt Whitman quotes in our list that you could connect with personally. His words truly are inspirational and beautiful to read.