Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days, published in 1882, provides an extraordinary picture of an aging poet reassessing the path of his long life, one intrinsically linked with the trajectory—and traumas—of the nation he cherished so deeply. Its diary-like entries, is a prose compilation of a life lived richly and in the service of others, as well an enduring portrait of a monumental writer. Specimen Days reveals the remarkable course of Whitman’s life and accomplishments, starting with his boyhood spent roaming the coast of Long Island, to his days as a writer and observer of the cities of New York and Brooklyn, to his volunteer work as a Washington field nurse during the Civil War, and finally to his serene nature writings and travel diaries as an older man. Whitman’s book of memories resounds with striking sections on war, nature, people, and travel. Composed by arguably the finest and most original of American poets, Specimen Days is an underappreciated autobiographical masterpiece by one of America’s most important writers of any generation.
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