10 Best Walt Whitman Poems

Walt Whitman, a great American poetic figure, was born in New Jersey and died in Camden New Jersey in 1892. As a poet, his collection, Leaves of Gross, won popularity for him on account of his decision to forsake rhyming patterns and rhythm in his poetic output. To evaluate his poetic skills, we have ranked his popular poems as follows.

Poem #1

O Captain! My Captain!

Published in 1865, this short poem of just three stanzas is ranked one of the best poems by Walt Whitman. The reason is its patriotic tone, it’s apostrophic beginning, and its anaphoric ending. Each stanza comprises eight verses with a good rhyming scheme and rhythm. The poet calls the captain who has laid down his life for the homeland. The poet calls him to hear his bells but despite this, the ship has arrived in the harbor safe and sound. The poem has proved among one of the best American English poems and the best song of patriotism. Its best verses are as follows.

  1. O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done.
  2. O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells.
  3. My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still.

Poem #2

Song of Myself

Published in 1855, this highly popular poem by Walt Whitman is known for its length and sections. The poem comprises 1300 verses with 52 sections. Written in free verse, “Song of Myself” has attracted the attention of the critics and readers alike on account of its thematic strand of a person’s self, identity, and others. The poet thinks about himself in relation to nature, about nature at large, and his role in the universe. The poet also sheds light on patriotism along with the place of America in his heart. Some of the best verses of the poem are as follows.

  1. I celebrate myself and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume.
  2. Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same.
  3. Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes.

Poem # 3

 Shut Not Your Doors

 This beautiful short poem by Whitman first appeared in 1865 in his collection, Drum-Taps. The poem is a powerful apostrophic description of the desire of the poet that libraries should be opened to the public. He calls the libraries to not shut their doors to the poet and that their shelves should be filled with what the people need. He mentions the civil war and the book that he has penned down, saying it would comprise the “untold latencies” on its every page. The beautiful use of free verse and apostrophes in the poem makes it one of the best poems of Walt Whitman. Some of the best lines of this poem are as follows.

  1. Shut not your doors to me proud libraries.
  2. Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made.
  3. But you ye untold latencies will thrill every page.

Poem #4

To the States

Published in his collection Leaves of Grass, this poem is included for its theme of resistance and conciseness. The poet calls on the states and regions to put resistance to the attempts of slavery. He clearly means civil disobedience or anti-slavery efforts. He is of the view that once a nation is enslaved, it becomes part of its psyche and culture. Therefore, no matter if a state is small or big, it must resist slavery. Some of the best verses of this poem are as follows.

  1. States, Resist much, obey little.
  2. Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved.
  3. Once fully enslaved, no nation, city of this / earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty. 

Poem #5

For You O Democracy

Published in his popular book, Leaves of Grass”, this poem was written in 1859 or 1860. It is called a dedicatory poem about his manly love to produce a dedicated race ever lived on the continent. With the stress on the first person having a divine mission to love his comrades and desire for friendship, Whitman expresses his thoughts about democracy by the end. His democracy is the democracy of love and friendship. The use of anaphoric phrases such as “I will…” and “love of comrades” has made it a memorable poem. Some of the best verses from this poem are as follows.

  1. I will make divine magnetic land.
  2. I will plan companionship thick as trees along all.
  3. For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!

Poem #6

We Two Boys Together Clinging

Like all other great poems, this poem, two, was published in Leaves of Grass in 1855. The poem is one of the best because of its tone and celebratory mood of the poem. The poet celebrates his friendship with a person with whom he goes on the roads in the United States from North to South hand in hand, loving each other but not abandoning him at any moment. The soldiering, thieving, and threatening show the use of internal rhyme in free verse poetry. The protraction of the thematic strand and the use of participles to show the camaraderie has made it an interesting poem worth reading. Some of the best verses from this poem are as follows.

  1. We two boys together clinching, / One the other never leaving.
  2. Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching.
  3. Fulfilling our foray.

Poem #7

There Was a Child went Forth

This poem was also published in 1859, as part of Whitman’s celebratory poetic collection, Leaves of Grass. Later changed to the current title in 1871. The poem is one of the best poems by Whitman on account of its theme and presentation. The poet tells the readers about a child who has gone forth looking for things to play and whatever he sees becomes part of him whether they are his parents, the weather, beautiful nature, or friends. This recounting of natural events, phenomena, things, friends, foes, and things around the boy or the newborn has produced the best repetition given in the poem. Some of the memorable lines of this poem are as follows.

  1. There was a child went forth every day.
  2. The early lilacs became part of this child.
  3. And the field-sprouts of April and May became part of him . . . . wintergrain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and of the esculent roots of the garden

Poem # 8 

To a Stranger

Occurring in the same collection of Whatman, Leaves of Grass, and appearing in the same section, this short poem presents the reaction of the poet toward a stranger when he passes beside him. This theme of unique feelings has made the poem be added to our list. The poet asks a passing stranger that he does not know the feelings of the poet about him/her. These feelings show the poet’s intense love for his compatriots and his expression of love through free verses. Some of the best lines of this poem are as follows.

  1. Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly / I look upon you.
  2. You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking.
  3. i am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when; I sit alone or wake at night alone.

 Poem #9

One’s-Self I Sing

This short poem is the last one published in Leaves of Grass. Therefore, its publication is the same as of the collection. The poet has again commented on political matters, saying all the people are counted in democracy. Analyzing the word “democratic,” the poet states that the poet sings about physiology, Form, Female, and even Life. However, this is the song of a modern man and not that of the old man, Walt Whitman. It means the poet has himself become a modern man. Some of the best verses of this poem are as follows.

  1. One’s-Self I Sing, a simple separate person.
  2. Of physiology from top to toe I sing.
  3. Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power.

Poem #10

On the Beach at Night

The poet presents a female child standing on a beach with a nocturnal scene behind her and her father with him. Published in 1871 in the “Sea-Shore Memories” group of poems, this poem presents the unknown world of the ocean and its expanse, showing how a child keeps her father close to her due to the fear of the “burial clouds.” However, the consolatory word of the poet makes the readers feel better for them as having something to live up to. Some of the best verses of this poem are as follows.

  1. On the beach at night, / Stands a child with her father.
  2. Weep not, child, / Weep not, my darling.
  3. Thou dearest child mournest though only for Jupiter?