Drum-TapsThe Complete 1865 Edition
by Walt Whitman, edited and with an introduction by Lawrence Kramer
Publishing during the 150th Anniversary of the end of the American Civil War
Walt Whitman worked as a nurse in an army hospital during the Civil War and published Drum-Taps, his war poems, as the war was coming to an end. Later, the book came out in an expanded form, including “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Whitman’s passionate elegy for Lincoln. The most moving and enduring poetry to emerge from America’s most tragic conflict, Drum-Taps also helped to create a new, modern poetry of war, a poetry not just of patriotic exhortation but of somber witness. Drum-Taps is thus a central work not only of the Civil War but of our war-torn times.
But Drum-Taps as readers know it from Leaves of Grass is different from the work of 1865. Whitman cut and reorganized the book, reducing its breadth of feeling and raw immediacy. This edition, the first to present the book in its original form since its initial publication 150 years ago, is a revelation, allowing one of Whitman’s greatest achievements to appear again in all its troubling glory.Walt Whitman, edited and with an introduction by Lawrence Kramer
Drum-Taps delivers my ambition of the task that has haunted me, namely, to express in a poem...the pending action of this Time & Land we swim in, with all their large conflicting fluctuations of despair & hope, the shiftings, masses, & the whirl & deafening din...& then an undertone of sweetest comradeship and human love, threading its steady thread inside the chaos...
—Walt Whitman, letter to William D. O'Connor, January 6, 1865