Walt Whitman's Leaves Of Grass: Literary Analysis

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Into the early 19th century, even with sonnets, metaphysical poetry, and romantic poetry at their pinnacle, the epic poem was still the major form of poetry. In fact, the 19th century produced almost 60 epics, topping most other centuries. With epics being written that often, it is imperative to stand out and adapt. Geoffrey Chaucer tried modernizing The Canterbury Tales by adapting the developing language, English, into his epic. As well, Chaucer incorporated the social norms of the day, from the large, red-bearded, gaping-mouthed Miller to the chivalric and prideful Knight. John Milton adapted Paradise Lost by focusing on particular religious concerns of the 17th century. Percy Bysshe Shelley, in Queen Mab, combined William Godwins 's idea of "necessity" with nature to claim that the evils in society will ultimately disband. But above all poets, with a true modernization of the epic, is Walt Whitman 's Leaves of Grass, self-published on July 4, 1855. With obvious intent to publish on America 's celebration of independence, Whitman provided the nation with an epic designed for Americans-Leaves is an adaption of mid-nineteenth century American values, carved into a booklet with only 12 poems on 95 pages. Critics have condemned Leaves as "beastly," as "foolish prose," and as something "to expose and denounce, not commend" (Bayne 49). Critics have also revered Whitman 's poetry, claiming it has "fathered many of the popular poets of the day" (Brown 33). That Whitman 's

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