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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2012, Volume 33

The Inscription of Walt Whitman's "Live Oak, with Moss" Sequence

by Steven Olsen-Smith

The Inscription of Walt Whitman's "Live Oak, with Moss" Sequence:

A Restorative Edition

Walt Whitman's twelve-poem "Live Oak, with Moss" sequence, composed in the late 1850s then broken up and dispersed by the poet among thirty-three other poems for the "Calamus" cluster of the third (1860) edition of Leaves of Grass, was first printed in 1953 by Fredson Bowers in the journal Studies in Bibliography, and it is now available in several literature anthologies and collections of Whitman's writings. [1] Apparently inspired by a failed same-sex attachment and its psychological aftermath, "Live Oak, with Moss" was neglected for forty years after Bowers reassembled the sequence from Whitman's surviving manuscripts for the 1860 Leaves. But it became the subject of critical and editorial controversy in the 1990s, when Alan Helms printed the sequence from the revised "Calamus" versions of the twelve poems and Hershel Parker edited the sequence from the manuscript, with both proponents defending their versions in the journal Nineteenth-Century Literature. [2] In that exchange, Parker's argument for the manuscript version prevailed, and it has rightly served as the basis for subsequent printings—most recently Betsy Erkkila's version of the poems alongside photo-facsimile reproductions of the manuscript leaves (see note 1). Yet Erkkila's unqualified reference to the leaves as "clean and elegantly handwritten" (xii) typifies an ongoing failure by editors adequately to consider the state of the "Live Oak" manuscript. Whereas his initial inscription of this work can indeed be described as clean and elegant, Whitman's clear and present revisions to the leaves raise significant questions about the form of the sequence and his evolving intentions for its twelve poems. As I will demonstrate in this essay, Bowers's editorial focus on the final versions of the sundered manuscripts was not well suited for "Live Oak, with Moss," and the approach has resulted in the incorporation of changes that Whitman made to the poems after breaking the sequence apart. Along with detailing the transmission of the sequence in manuscript, this essay concludes with an edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" that restores the sequence to its original, integrated state. The restorative edition more accurately conveys the themes and intentions that inform "Live Oak, with Moss," and more clearly illustrates its significance in the development of Whitman's thought.

The "Live Oak" Manuscript and the Flaw of Final Versions

"Live Oak, with Moss" presents a challenging situation for scholarly editing. Its twelve poems were inscribed fairly by Whitman into a notebook he assembled by folding a stack of eleven paper sheets into conjugate halves and stitching them together at two points along the folds, producing 22 leaves. [3] As Bowers discovered in his work on the surviving manuscripts for the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, the "Live Oak" notebook leaves are clearly distinguishable from other drafts of the published "Calamus" poems by their Roman numeral headings and by the contours where they were originally folded and stitched (Whitman's Manuscripts lxv-lxvi; see figure 1). Whitman inscribed the sequence on the rectos of leaves 2 through 18 of the notebook in continuous fashion, with successive poems starting where previous ones concluded. Its fair-copy notebook state represents the final form of "Live Oak, with Moss" as a stable and integrated sequence, for Whitman's decision to disassemble the notebook began a new phase of transmission in which the poems reverted to draft status and were combined with others for the formation of a larger work. He dismantled the notebook by separating its folded leaves from one another and severing these at their folds into conjugate halves. This was followed by further division of some individual halves and the pasting of those scissored portions to others so as to reconstitute poems that had originally occupied multiple notebook leaves. For example, Poem VI of the sequence ("What think you I have taken my pen to record?") originally extended from the lower section of notebook leaf 10 (containing lines 1-3) to the upper section of leaf 11 (containing lines 4 and 5). Following dismantlement, Whitman cut leaves 10 and 11 in half and pasted their respective lower and upper sections together, creating a new leaf that contained all five lines (see figure 2). Whitman foliated the detached leaves at their lower left corners, thereby documenting their former notebook order, but he also began rearranging the "Live Oak" poems into different groupings, as revealed by holes at their tops and centers where he pinned and threaded leaves together, and where he appears also to have tacked groups to a surface at his workspace (see figure 3). [4]

Eventually Whitman had the poems set up in type, with many others, at the Brooklyn printing firm operated by his friends, T. H. Rome and Brothers, with proofs made for the author. [5] In this preliminary proof stage, Whitman completed the process of dispersing the poems among thirty-three others for the "Calamus" cluster of the 1860 Leaves of Grass (the original manuscripts remained with the Rome Brothers), thereby publishing all of the twelve "Live Oak" poems, but not as a sequence, and in a way that destroyed their narrative of love, loss, and resolve. Throughout the sundered manuscript and proof stages, Whitman made revisions to the poems. Displaying various cancellations and interlineations, the manuscripts reveal multiple stages of pencil and ink revision, and, in the instance of Poem III ("When I heard at the close of day"), a substantial paste-over revision. Although the Rome proof sheets are not known to be extant, Bowers demonstrated that Whitman revised these still further before submitting them with other material to the Boston firm of Thayer and Eldridge as printer's copy for the 1860 Leaves (xxiv); for the published "Calamus" texts of the twelve poems vary at numerous points from the revised texts of the "Live Oak" manuscripts. [6]

It is easy to see why a focus on late revisions might seem to offer a reliable method for editing "Live Oak, with Moss." As formulated by Sir Walter Greg in 1950, the editorial principle of final authorial intention distinguishes among early and late versions of a literary work and observes authorial revisions leading up to its final state. [7] Despite what seems to have been his original intention of preserving the sequence in manuscript, Whitman went on to publish revised versions of its twelve poems, and the changes made to them for inclusion in the 1860 "Calamus" cluster are clearly authorial. Their states of authorized finality seem to have underlain Helms's decision to assemble his edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" from the printed "Calamus" versions of the twelve poems, for although Helms does not invoke Greg's rationale, he does identify the "Calamus" versions as the texts "Whitman approved for publication" ("Whitman's 'Live Oak with Moss'" 187). The problem with Helms's decision is that the versions he reprinted were approved by Whitman as parts of the published "Calamus" cluster, not as the unpublished "Live Oak, with Moss." As Parker observed, "Greg's theory of final authorial intention does not apply to poems that have been taken apart from a sequence and then shuffled, in revised form, among other poems" as parts of a different work ("Commentary" 416). What Helms did was arrange the twelve revised "Calamus" versions of the poems in the sequential order of their manuscript states as an earlier work. He did not print "Live Oak, with Moss." In editing the sundered manuscripts of the poems, Parker came much closer to the state of the sequence as Whitman inscribed it. Yet his version in the 4th edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature and all subsequent editions of the sequence currently in print have tended to represent Whitman's manuscript readings in their final states—an approach paralleling that of Bowers for his version in SB. [8] Bowers, of course, is so thoroughly identified with Greg's principle of final authorial intention that its practice has been known for the past half-century as the "Greg-Bowers" formula, which is justly esteemed for producing some of the finest scholarly editions in existence. But aside from its observance of late revisions, the edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" Bowers published fails ultimately to exemplify the principle. Although he had already endorsed Greg's rationale in 1950, [9] Bowers did not refer to it in his 1953 essay on "Live Oak, with Moss," nor indeed to any editorial formula aimed at representing Whitman's intentions for the sequence.

The absence of a principled editorial approach in "Whitman's Original Manuscripts for the 'Calamus' Poems" is curiously out of keeping with the significance of the discoveries disclosed by Bowers. In his essay he observed: (1) that the twelve "Live Oak" poems "make up an artistically complete story of attachment, crisis, and reconstitution"; (2) that they "are manifestly fair copies" in their original inscriptions; and (3) that "the calamus symbol is nowhere mentioned in these poems," which instead feature the live oak (264). These three points establish the autonomy of the sequence during its notebook state as a discretely inscribed work, one Whitman wrote under what were apparently compelling biographical circumstances. Whitman's motives for recording the sequence may be suggested by his note on the verso of a canceled draft fragment of Poem II, "I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing":

A cluster of poems, sonnets expressing the thoughts, pictures,—aspirations, &c. Fit to be perused during the days of the approach of Death. That I have prepared myself for that purpose. Remember now— Remember then— [10]
As Bowers surmised of this note, "the reference to Whitman having himself prepared the cluster is very likely to his having assembled and copied out the poems in a form to be kept by him" (Whitman's Manuscripts lxvii). Several details supply strong indication that the designated cluster was "Live Oak, with Moss" and that the form in question was the "Live Oak" notebook. Occupying different sides of the same leaf, the note and draft fragment display a documentary connection between Whitman's reference to a commemorative cluster of poems and the title poem of "Live Oak, with Moss." Whereas Whitman's surviving papers furnish many examples of recto/verso inscriptions that lack clear genetic relationships, his revisions to the canceled recto draft are observed exactly in the notebook inscription of Poem II, indicating the leaf served as copy for the notebook version. Whitman subsequently canceled the draft with a vertical line, and the order of draft inscription and cancellation (on the recto, where the draft is cropped along a verse line at the leaf's head) followed by note inscription (on the verso, where the note is neatly situated with no content lost to cropping) makes it likely that Whitman's act of inscribing the note followed his act of transcribing the fair-copy version of "Live Oak, with Moss." The note's reference to an already "prepared" collection of poems may therefore aptly signify the "Live Oak" notebook—a medium well suited for keepsake purposes. Identification of the memorial cluster with "Live Oak, with Moss" seems further bolstered by aspects of the inscribed sequence that are manifestly autobiographical, such as its retrospective account of Whitman's ambition to become America's representative poet—an ambition he there abandons in preference for intimate love and companionship.

Whatever the intentions surrounding his note about having prepared a cluster for perusal in old age, the fair-copy state of its inscription reveals that Whitman completed "Live Oak, with Moss" in its notebook form. But Bowers's descriptions of the sundered manuscripts display undue emphasis on the radically different fate of the "Live Oak" poems as dispersed and shuffled components of a later work. Despite his recognition of the sequence as an artistically complete product that predated Whitman's conception of "Calamus," he described "Live Oak, with Moss" as "the inception of the 'Calamus' cluster and the original poems which comprised it," and he published his research as "Whitman's Manuscripts for the Original 'Calamus' Poems" (257). This tendency to conceive of the "Live Oak" poems in terms that look forward to their published states demonstrably influenced Bowers's editing of the sequence. His most revealing decision along these lines was his adherence to a revision in the manuscript of Poem II, "I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing," which portrays the speaker meditating about the tree's resemblance to himself. As originally inscribed on leaf 4 of the intact notebook (the second leaf of Poem II), lines 6 through 8 of the poem convey Whitman's sense of "Live Oak, with Moss" as an integrated whole organized around its titular symbol:

And I plucked a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss, and brought it away—And I have placed it in sight in my room, It is not needed to remind me as of my friends, (for I believe lately I think of little else than of them,) Yet it remains to me a curious token—I write these pieces, and name them after it; (2.6-8)
The revision in question involves Whitman's decision to strike the final two clauses, "I write these pieces, and name them after it," and interline above the canceled words the clause, "it makes me think of manly love." To perform the revision, Whitman used a light brown ink he also used to cancel the title "Live Oak, with Moss" on what had been the opening leaf of the sequence and supply above it the title "Calamus-Leaves" (see figure 4). Whitman's replacement of the title "Live Oak, with Moss" by "Calamus-Leaves" and his cancellation in Poem II are the only two instances of light brown ink revisions in the "Live Oak" manuscript. According to Bowers's inclusive examination of Whitman's manuscripts for the 1860 Leaves, the light brown medium represents "the final or near-to-final" transmission stage for the entire mass of manuscripts Whitman surrendered to the printing firm of T. H. Rome and Brothers (xxvii). Shortly before relinquishing the mss, Whitman used grades of the same brown ink to inscribe new opening poems for the now-assembled "Calamus" cluster, which in Bowers's words "performed for the calamus what poems I and II had done for the live oak as an association" (lxx). Whitman also used the brown ink for a section introducing the theme of companionship to the already drafted "Premonition" (published as "Proto-Leaf" in the 1860 Leaves; see Whitman's Manuscripts 12). The presence of the light brown ink in the manuscripts thus corresponds in time with Whitman's decision to publish an "evangel-poem of lovers and comrades," as he described "Calamus" in the material he added to "Premonition" (12), and post-dates his dismantlement of the "Live Oak" notebook and dispersal of its poems among others for the newly conceived cluster. The related content of the revisions suggests further that the two brown-ink changes were performed in relation to each other after Whitman conceived of a new controlling image—the calamus plant—for a larger poetic cluster that would incorporate the "Live Oak" poems. Yet although Bowers restored the title "Live Oak, with Moss" to his edition of the sequence, he let stand Whitman's collateral substitution of "It makes me think of manly love" for "I write these pieces, and name them after it." Bowers's edition therefore prints the sequence under its correct title, but it omits Poem II's reference to that title, and to the poems themselves as a collective whole.

Whereas Bowers's adherence to the principle of final authorial intention can be seen in his declared but unexplained decision to print the manuscripts "in the final versions of their texts" (259), the influence of Greg's principle on his edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" was clearly conceptual rather than methodological. For the purpose of capturing a stand-alone work from manuscripts later absorbed within a larger one, a precise application of the principle of final authorial intention would require the editor to identify their final states as the product of that original intention, observing only revisions made by the author up to that point. But along with neglecting to provide a justification for final versions, Bowers chose not to address the question of whether different revisions in the manuscript could be associated with Whitman's differing intentions for these poems, first, as an integrated sequence and, later, as parts of a larger work. Indeed, Bowers's decision to print the final versions "without notes as to the originals of the various revisions contained in them" (260) reveals that his essay was designedly reportorial rather than analytical. He seems to have conceived of the sequence as illuminating a significant stage in the genetic history of "Calamus," but not as warranting critical establishment of a copy-text for reprinting and anthologization of "Live Oak, with Moss." Although he described the sequence as "artistically complete," its superseded status apparently exempted it from consideration as a work requiring thorough bibliographic investigation in its own right.

Bowers described his 1953 essay as a "preview and synopsis" and announced that "the bare bones of this present story will be fleshed with the proper evidence when the full texts and their appropriate introductions are published" (257), and he did go on to identify material and textual features of the "Live Oak" manuscripts in his 1955 monograph Whitman's Manuscripts: Leaves of Grass (1860). But there again he restricted his analysis of the manuscripts to their status as early drafts of "Calamus" poems. He did not print the "Live Oak, with Moss" poems in their sequential order, nor did he take up the question of how their revisions should be classified in relation to Whitman's radical transmission of the poems from one work to another. In a revealing slip, he there even referred to the "Live Oak" notebook as "the 'Calamus' notebook" (lxviii). [11] His focus on the poems as early drafts of "Calamus" likely contributed to neglect of "Live Oak, with Moss" over the decades that followed, for we see it influencing dismissive reactions to his discovery that the poems had originally constituted an earlier work. James E. Miller, Jr., concluded from Bowers's research that the existence of "Live Oak, with Moss" had been "tenuous" from the start, and David Cavitch concluded that in the act of inscribing the sequence Whitman had merely "toyed" with arranging "Calamus" poems into a smaller cluster. [12] These attitudes characterized criticism for four decades despite the significance of Whitman's original collective reference to the sequence in Poem II, despite its fair-copy state, and despite the compelling implications of Whitman's note on the draft fragment of Poem II—all of which evidence predates Whitman's adoption of the calamus image for a larger work that would incorporate the twelve sundered poems. [13]

Long-standing neglect of "Live Oak, with Moss" has been attributed to discomfort with its subject matter and to its limited circulation in a specialized bibliographical journal. But considerable explanation may also be found in the conceptual approach that has dictated its form to date. Its appearance in modern literary collections means it is now being conceived not merely as the "first and limited form of 'Calamus'" (Bowers, Whitman's Manuscripts xxxvi), but as the outcome of quite different earlier intentions. Whether or not we associate "Live Oak, with Moss" with Whitman's declared intent to privately commemorate matters of personal experience, there is no denying the fair-copy state of its notebook inscription, and its status as a completed manuscript warrants analytical bibliographic treatment. But the version of "Live Oak, with Moss" currently in print is not a product of bibliographic analysis. It is a blanket transcription of the final versions of the manuscripts that restores the title of the sequence but indiscriminately observes every other revision to its twelve poems. Continuing acceptance and application of this approach is newly displayed in the most recent edition by Betsy Erkkila, who prints the final states of the texts alongside facsimile reproductions of the manuscript leaves but does not address their revisions and does not explain her editorial procedure. [14]

"Live Oak, with Moss" should be edited not by representing the latest revised versions of its dispersed manuscripts, but by restoring it as closely as possible to the state in which it was inscribed as an integrated work. Restoration is made possible by revisory ink offsetting and bleeding in the original notebook leaves, and by connections of this evidence to the hinge points where notebook leaves were originally folded and stitched and to pinholes where Whitman reattached leaves of individual poems during the revision stages that followed dismantlement. The rest of the present study details the "Live Oak, with Moss" notebook as it was originally assembled and dismantled, distinguishes revisions Whitman made to the poems during their notebook existence from those he made following dismantlement, and supplies a new edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" that recaptures the notebook state of its text.

Assembly, Inscription, and Disassembly of the "Live Oak" Notebook

The following table updates and expands tabular data in Bowers's Whitman's Manuscripts (lxiv-lxv), listing the leaves of Whitman's "Live Oak, with Moss" notebook along with details of their order, content, and composition in connected and separated states. It adopts Bowers's "W1" designation for the white wove paper of which the notebook was assembled by Whitman, with "W1a" signifying leaves 1 through 11 of the notebook, and "W1b" signifying their conjugate leaves 12 through 22. Die stamps at the lower right corners of leaves 18, 19, and 20 show this paper to be from the mill of Owen & Hurlbut Paper Company in South Lee, Massachusetts. The total of 22 conjugate halves from 11 folded sheets of paper corrects Bowers's tally of 20 leaves from 10 sheets (Whitman's Manuscripts lxiv-lxv), and so assigns different numbers to the leaves and their conjugate mates. The table and ensuing analysis also observe Bowers's designation of a black ink fair-copy inscription, with black and brown ink revisions, although the mediums are not always easily distinguished. It may be that some of the color variations constitute not separate inks but different grades of the same medium. Such variations could have resulted from differences of consistency in Whitman's ink well at different work stages and—as his light brown revisions might indicate—from dilutions performed by Whitman for the purpose of stretching out his supply. All of the "Live Oak" poems were inscribed by Whitman on the rectos of the notebook leaves, of which the versos were left blank.

Table 1

Notebook Leaf Whitman Archive ID Content Foliation Paper Medium Conjugate Mate
1 n/a Unknown n/a W1a Brown ink 22
2 uva.00310.001; uva.00310.002 "Live Oak" I 1 W1a Black and brown ink 21
3 uva.00316.001; uva.00316.003 "Live Oak" II 2 W1a Black ink and pencil 20
4 uva.00316.002; uva.00316.004 "Live Oak" II 3 W1a Black and brown ink 19
5 uva.00339.001; uva.00339.002 "Live Oak" III 4 W1a Black ink and pencil 18
6 uva.00339.003; uva.00339.004 "Live Oak" III 5 W1a Black ink and pencil 17
7 uva.00331.001; uva.00331.002 "Live Oak" IV 6 W1a Black ink and pencil 16
8 uva.00321.001; uva.00321.004 "Live Oak" V 7 W1a Black ink and pencil 15
9 uva.00321.002; uva.00321.005 "Live Oak" V 8 W1a Black ink and pencil 14
10 uva.00321.003; uva.00321.006; uva.00338.001; uva.00338.002 "Live Oak" V and VI 8½ and 9 W1a Black ink 13
11 uva.00338.001; uva.00338.002; uva.00340.001; uva.00340.002 "Live Oak" VI and VII 9 and 9½ W1b Black ink 12
12 uva.00340.003; uva.00340.004 "Live Oak" VII 10 W1b Black ink 11
13 uva.00340.003; uva.00340.004; uva.00314.001; uva.00314.002 "Live Oak" VII and VIII 10 and 11 W1b Black ink 10
14 uva.00314.003; uva.00314.004 "Live Oak" VIII 12 W1b Black ink 9
15 uva.00314.003; uva.00314.004; uva.00315.001; uva.00315.002 "Live Oak" VIII and IX 12 and 13 W1b Black ink and pencil 8
16 uva.00324.001; uva.00324.002 "Live Oak" X 14 W1b Black ink 7
17 uva.00312.001; uva.00312.002 "Live Oak" XI 15 W1b Black ink 6
18 uva.00337.001; uva.00337.002 "Live Oak" XII 16 W1b Black ink and pencil 5
19 uva.00313.001; uva.00313.002 "Calamus" Nos. 44 and 38 n/a W1b Brown ink 4
20 uva.00328.001; uva.00328.002 "Calamus" No. 39 n/a W1b Brown ink 3
21 n/a Unknown n/a W1b Unknown 2
22 uva.00232.014; uva.00023.001 Paste-over Revisions to "So Long!" and "Calamus" No. 18 n/a W1b Brown ink 1

In describing Whitman's notebook as consisting of 20 leaves, Bowers concluded that the opening poem of the sequence was inscribed on leaf 1 and that the final Poem XII was inscribed on leaf 17, with the notebook's remaining three W1b leaves left blank. After dismantlement, Whitman used two of these W1b leaves to inscribe the poems that would become "Calamus" Nos. 44 and 38 (leaf 19 in the above table) and No. 39 (leaf 20) in brown ink (see figures 5 and 6). Bowers identified the upper half of the remaining third W1b leaf (leaf 22) as Whitman's paste-over revision to manuscript leaf 7 of "So Long!," and assumed its lower half to be lost (Whitman's Manuscripts lxvii). But the surviving evidence shows Bowers's account to be flawed. The paste-over revision to "So Long!" is indeed from a W1b notebook leaf, but that leaf's lower half is present among Whitman's surviving manuscripts. Inverted from its original notebook orientation, it exists as a paste-over revised opening affixed by Whitman to a draft that would become "Calamus" No. 18, "City of my walks and joys" (see figures 7 and 8). The contour of its scissored bottom edge corresponds with the bottom edge of the paste-over revision to "So Long!" and trim marks at its right edge correspond with the right edges of all of the surviving W1b leaves. (Their lower-right jagged edges indicate the 11 notebook sheets that formed the "Live Oak" notebook were originally among the end-sheets of a stack of paper that was too thick to allow a clean cut.) Most tellingly, a crease and two pinholes at the left of the paste-over on "Calamus" No. 18 and at the right of the paste-over on leaf 7 of "So Long" correspond with the areas where the notebook sheets were originally folded and stitched, and thus identify them as having once been parts of a notebook leaf.

The two paste-overs together constitute the final leaf of the "Live Oak" notebook, but unlike other surviving notebook leaves, the one affixed to "Calamus" No. 18 retains a considerable portion of its conjugate half. Contrary to Bowers's assumptions, this does not match the internal edge of Poem I of the "Live Oak" sequence (leaf 2 in the above table). It must therefore be identified as the W1b conjugate half of the actual leaf 1, now unlocated along with W1b leaf 21, which was the actual conjugate half of leaf 2. It is of course no surprise that Whitman would have used opening and closing leaves as a cover for the notebook and commenced his inscription of "Live Oak, with Moss" on its second leaf rather than on its first. In all likelihood the opening leaf was left blank, for pen strokes in the light brown ink of Whitman's late revisions can be seen at the severed edges of the "Calamus" No. 18 and "So Long!" paste-overs, which indicates that Whitman used leaf 1 for some form of inscription after he detached it from the notebook, but before he separated its conjugate half for the paste-over revisions to those poems.

The above evidence establishes that Whitman's original "Live Oak, with Moss" notebook consisted of 22 leaves, with the sequence inscribed on the rectos of leaves 2 through 18. Leaves 19, 20, and 22 were left blank and used by Whitman for inscription of different verses after the notebook was dismantled, as were in all likelihood the lost leaves 1 and 21. However, inscription of the sequence into the notebook appears not to have been carried out in a single stage or sitting. On the originally constituted leaf 13 (which Whitman later severed), and positioned in the very midst of the second line of Poem VIII ("Hours continuing long"), an erased pencil notation in Whitman's hand reads: "finished in the other city" (see figure 9). The note appears to have been inscribed before Poem VIII was added to this leaf, but after Whitman had inscribed the closing line of Poem VII ("You bards of ages hence!") at its head. [15] In other words, Whitman's inscription of Poem VII continued from leaf 12 to the top of leaf 13, beneath which he recorded in pencil that the inscription was "finished in the other city"—a reference probably to Manhattan, as distinct from Whitman's resident city of Brooklyn (not consolidated with New York City until 1898). But he subsequently erased the notation and went on to inscribe Poems VIII through XII onto this and succeeding leaves, recording line 2 of Poem VIII directly over the erasure. Additional evidence that an interval occurred at this point in the inscription consists of the fact that Whitman at first mistakenly recorded the numeral "IX" as a heading for Poem VIII, and that he was obliged to strike the erroneous heading and supply "VIII" beside it. Numeral headings of the remaining poems follow accurately from the correction, which reveals Whitman spotted the error before continuing the inscription of "Live Oak, with Moss" beyond Poem VIII. [16]

Whitman's temporary decision to finish the notebook inscription with Poem VII is difficult to explain. In Poems I through VII, the speaker distinguishes his capacity and need for companionship from the self-sufficiency of the natural world, and renounces his role as national poet for "him who loves me, as I him, in perfect love" (5.9). The speaker's rejections of nature and nation in favor of love and companionship culminate in Poem VII, where he demands of posterity that he be remembered not as a great poet but as the "tenderest lover" (7.4). Ending the sequence with Poem VII's triumphant endorsement of private companionship would have produced an expression remarkably different from the one he went on to complete as "Live Oak, with Moss." Moreover, it would also have lacked the coherence of the 12-poem cluster. The ebullience of Poem VII is qualified toward its conclusion by the speaker's expressed fear that his lover may actually be "indifferent" to him—a topic that would have been left undeveloped if Whitman had finished inscription with this poem. For it is in the following Poem VIII ("Hours continuing long") that the speaker tells of being rejected by his lover and describes his ensuing grief in moving detail. The remaining four poems inscribed by Whitman into the notebook illustrate the speaker's emergence from his grief as a newly anointed prophet of "manly love"—first with a visionary experience that introduces the expression (Poem IX), and finally with the intent to "engraft" this principle upon a disciple who is receptive to his teaching (Poem XII). This horticultural reference recalls the speaker's action in Poem II of plucking a twig from the live oak tree as a token for the meaning of the sequence and contributes to the thematic unity of the work. The movement from heartache to resolve suggests a process of sublimation that would result in the published "Calamus" cluster. Indeed, with the late brown ink he used to re-title the sequence, Whitman went on to inscribe the poem that became "Calamus" No. 39 on leaf 20 of the dismantled "Live Oak" notebook. "Calamus" No. 39 expresses similar principles of visionary compensation and resolve (see figure 6):

Sometimes, with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturned love; But now I think there is no unreturned love,—the pay is certain, one way or another, Doubtless I could not have perceived the universe or written one of my songs, if I had not freely given myself to comrades, to love.— [17]
That Whitman commenced inscription with the intention of including all twelve poems seems likely from the number of leaves he folded and stitched together for his notebook. A shorter notebook would have sufficed if he had planned to copy out a sequence comprising only the first seven. Whatever the reasons for the pause, Whitman resumed inscription and completed his fair-copy version of all twelve poems under the title, "Live Oak, with Moss."

The act of dismantlement corresponded with or led to Whitman's new conception of the twelve poems as parts of a different cluster, one to which he would devote at least two of the remaining blank notebook leaves for three new poems, and in which he would develop the equation of love and camaraderie with universal vision. [18] In foliating the sixteen separated notebook leaves, Whitman documented the fair-copy order of the poems. But the assortment of holes among the leaves reveals they underwent various groupings in their detached states. In processes of perusal and revision Whitman attached, detached and reattached the loose leaves of individual poems at different times by pinning them together at their centers, at their center heads, and at their upper left corners. Additional holes along the tops of all the leaves and in the centers of some indicate they were tacked to a surface—presumably the wall by Whitman's work space (see note 4 and figure 3). But in no instance can these holes be said to align on all of the leaves that comprise the original sequence, and a considerable difference in the quantities of holes at the heads of leaves 2 through 8 and leaves 9 through 18 would seem to indicate that Whitman divided the poems into two or more groups. A pattern of twelve holes with duplicate spatial relationships occurs on leaves 9-18, among other holes that are not a part of the pattern. A surviving strand of thread in one of these twelve holes at the corner of leaf 11 suggests Whitman once stitched these leaves together along their heads into a single group. It is odd that the sequence of threaded holes commences on leaf 9, for this leaf constitutes the second leaf of Poem V (displaying lines 6 through 11), of which the beginning leaf 8 displays only five pin and tack holes at its head and two at its upper left corner, none of which correspond with the threaded pattern on leaves 9 through 18 (see figure 10).

Poem I displays only a single tack hole at its head (as distinct from pin holes created by its being pinned to other leaves), and nine at its center. Poem I was at one point pinned together at the center with Poem II, as were possibly Poems XI and XII. But matching glue vestiges on the right verso edge of Poem XI (leaf 17), on the left recto and right verso of what would become "Calamus" 37 ("A leaf for hand-in-hand!"), and on the left recto edge of Poem XII (leaf 18) reveal Whitman's temporary grouping of these three poems in that order at some point after disassembly of the notebook (see figures 11 and 12). A matching pattern of tack holes in the center of Poem I and the center of what would become "Calamus" 2 ("Scented herbage of my breast") suggests Whitman combined these two temporarily as well when he was still conceiving of "Not the heat flames up and consumes" as an introductory poem that would commence the larger cluster he projected as "Calamus-Leaves." The variation of pin and tack holes among the leaves shows that although Whitman grouped numbers of the twelve poems together, he also combined them with new poems and did not regroup all twelve in this manner after dismantlement. As Bowers noted, emendations in the foliation suggest that Whitman considered alternative arrangements in the process of numbering the leaves at their lower left corners (Whitman's Manuscripts lxvi). Whereas the foliation documents the original notebook order of the poems, it does not indicate their reconstitution as a sequence during this revisory work stage of their history.

Revisions to the "Live Oak" Poems

The evidence of shuffling and dispersal indicates that the "Live Oak, with Moss" sequence quickly lost integrity following Whitman's dismantlement of the notebook. In that earlier form it assumed its most stable state as a discretely inscribed work, whereas in disassembly the poems commenced new stages of revision, transmission, and absorption within Whitman's new agenda for a larger cluster of poems intended for publication in the third edition of Leaves of Grass. The following table classifies Whitman's revisions to the manuscripts. The number designations refer to poem numbers and verse line numbers (as with the Class 1 revision identified as "1.5" for Poem I, line 5) in the restorative edition that follows the present essay.

Table 2

Class 1 Ink Class 2 Ink Class 3 Ink Class 4 Ink Pencil
1.5 to 2.9 live oak Title Live Oak, with Moss. 2.7 lately 2.3 with
3.1 followed 7.1 ! 2.8 I write . . . after it 3.3 the 3.2 Or
4.2 It 3.9-11 And that night . . . I was happy 6.4 two men 3.2 And else,
5.6 Lake 5.3 I heard the examples 6.5 to remain 3.2 my plans
7.8 and 11.1 My likeness! 6.5 to depart 3.2 it was well enough
8 VIII. 6.5 to remain 3.2 Still I was not happy
8.2 dusk 7.10 through fields, 3.3 the
8.2 seating 7.10 woods, on 3.3 when
8.4 him content 10.1 often and 3.6 then I
8.5 forgotten 11.1 spheric there 3.7 O then each
10.1 where you 4.2 China, or in
11.3 For 4.3 better
11.3 —and 4.5 know . . . know
12.2 the blood 5.2 my lands
5.2 me—
5.8 I have passed ahead—
9.3 the quality of
12.1 develope
12.2 rolls
12.2 divine

Whitman's ink revisions to the poems of "Live Oak, with Moss" are here classified as follows: 1) black ink emendations made in the process of its fair copy inscription; 2) black ink revisions possibly made after initial inscription but demonstrably before dismantlement; 3) black and brown ink revisions made to the poems after dismantlement; 4) black ink revisions that cannot with certainty be identified as preceding or following dismantlement. Returning the poems as closely as possible to their notebook states requires observance of ink revisions classified as 1, 2, and 4, and restoration of original wording altered or canceled by Whitman in class 3 revisions. Class 1 revisions consist of in-line emendations Whitman made to errors he committed while copying the sequence into the notebook from drafts. These include corrections Whitman made by wiping away the wet ink of the mis-written letter and inscribing the correct character at the site of the wipe (e.g. 1.5 to in Table 2) and instances of direct overwriting where the nature of the error and material appearance of the emendation indicate it was performed mid-inscription with the same ink (e.g. 3.1 followed). Two class 1 revisions (10.1 where you and 12.2 the blood) include strikeouts that correct what were apparently eye-skips, with Whitman erroneously transcribing a word from his draft at the wrong point of a line in the notebook, then immediately catching the error, cancelling it with diagonal pen strokes, and proceeding with the correct word. Class 2 revisions consist of alterations Whitman made to leaves 4 (2.9 live oak) and 12 (7.1 !) of the intact notebook. The first comprises two sequential changes to line 9 of Poem II: Whitman's alteration of "tree" to "live oak," involving his mis-inscription of f for v, and his emendation of the error. The second is Whitman's replacement of a comma by an exclamation point at line 1 of Poem VII. [19] The ambiguous class 4 revisions consist of black-ink cancellations and/or additions made by Whitman in Poems II, III, VI, VII, X, and XI (see the class 4 column in Table 2). None produced offsets on the versos of leaves that had preceded them in the intact notebook, and this fact alone might suggest that their leaves were detached at the time of revision. But since class 4 changes cannot certainly be identified as following dismantlement, they are observed in the text of the restored edition with XML encoding. All of the class 4 changes can be described as stylistic in character, involving local alterations in phraseology and word choice. Their neatness of execution indicates a closer relationship to Whitman's fair-copy inscription than to the untidy redrafting stage of his later pencil alterations (discussed below).

Class 3 revisions are identifiable as such by their ink varieties, by their offsets on the versos of leaves to which they were pinned after dismantlement, and, in the case of a paste-over revision to Poem III, by ink clouding that occurred where the two dismantled leaves comprising this poem were pinned together before the revisory ink and glue were dry. [20] The two brown ink class 3 revisions constitute Whitman's cancellation of the title "Live Oak, with Moss" and substitution of "Calamus-Leaves" and his likely corresponding revision to Poem II, line 8, which eliminated the poem's collective reference to the sequence. As discussed above, the ink medium of both revisions associates them with a late stage of transmission in Whitman's manuscripts for the 1860 Leaves. In addition, offsets on the verso of the first leaf of Poem II from Whitman's brown ink strikeouts and interlineations on the next leaf match with their origins when pinholes at the tops of the leaves are aligned rather than when the notebook hinge points of the leaves are aligned (see figure 13). The combined evidence of ink medium and offset alignment demonstrates that the revision to Poem II occurred after dismantlement.

The three remaining class 3 revisions involve alterations to Poems III, V, and XI. The case of Poem III constitutes the most substantial change Whitman made to the "Live Oak" poems after disassembly, and ranks with his light brown ink alteration of Poem II as the most consequential for matters of critical interpretation of the sequence. Inscribed on notebook leaves 5 and 6, Poem III of "Live Oak, with Moss" begins with the speaker explaining that his experiences of fame, carousal, and personal accomplishment have not brought him happiness, moves on to his account of meeting with his lover in a natural beach setting, and concludes with his recollection that this meeting alone brought him joy. The original notebook version includes his address to the ocean waves: "And that night O you happy waters, I heard you beating the shores—But my heart beat happier than you—for he I love was returned and sleeping by my side" (3.9; see figures 14 and 15). His subordination of natural processes to human emotional experience follows consistently from similar motifs in Poems I and II, where the speaker has declared that nature cannot fulfill or compare with the needs and capacities of the emotionally endowed self. But Whitman changed the conclusion to Poem III with a paste-over revision on white wove paper that has the speaker recollecting "the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands, as directed to me, whispering, to congratulate me," thus replacing its original subordinating address with a sympathetic identification between the self and nature (see figure 16).

Bowers observed of the leaf 6 paste-over that it "seems to have been added after the leaf was removed from the notebook" (Whitman's Manuscripts lxvi), but he offered no explanation or support for this judgment. That the revision to Poem III was indeed undertaken by Whitman after dismantlement is revealed by several material details. The verso of leaf 5 displays ink offsets from the opening line of the paste-over revision: "And that night, while all was still, I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores." In Whitman's act of inscribing this line, ink accumulated in the initial downward pen strokes of the w's in the words "was" and "waters." These two points produced offsets when Whitman went on to pin leaves 5 and 6 back to front, with the revisory paste-over on the recto of leaf 6 making contact with the verso of leaf 5. Scarcity of additional offsets on the verso of leaf 5 indicates that by the time of contact the surface of the paste-over had mainly dried except for the two pen strokes that begin "was" and "waters," each of which commences a new line of text, and each of which apparently followed fresh replenishments of ink to the point of Whitman's pen during inscription.

Matching the ink offsets from "was" and "waters" on the verso of leaf 5 with their origins on leaf 6 results in simultaneous alignment of both the middle pinholes of these two leaves and the original notebook hinge points of the leaves; and therefore the spatial correspondence of offsets and pinholes does not by itself confirm that the paste-over revision was applied to Poem III after rather than before dismantlement. Post-dismantlement revision is confirmed, however, by additional evidence that the revisory ink was still wet beneath the surface of inscription when Whitman pinned the two detached notebook leaves at their middles, most especially by ink bleeding in the opening line of the revision where the pin penetrated the paste-over leaf. The pin pierced the paste-over at the apex of the t in "night," and the extra compression of the paste-over onto the underlying leaf at this point of pressure caused the fresh ink to mix with the wet layer of glue beneath, producing a cloud of diluted ink that envelopes both the h and the t at the end of "night" (see figure 17). An identical effect resulted around the dot of the i in the adjacent word "while" at the right of "night." Directly to the left of this central point, glue was squeezed out from under the pasteover where Whitman pinched the left edges of the separate leaves together while pinning them. This seepage temporarily bonded the two leaves at this position, and a vestige of the glue remains on the verso of leaf 5 where the bonding occurred. Each of these areas signifies a high-pressure point where Whitman grasped and pinned leaves 5 and 6 at their middles. With the corresponding offsets from the w's at "was" and "waters," which also are situated in this vicinity where Whitman handled the leaves to pin them together, the ink clouding and vestigial glue supply material proof that leaves 5 and 6 were not joined at the hinges of an intact notebook when Whitman applied the past-over patch to Poem III, but existed as separate leaves at the time of revision. [21]

Another class 3 revision occurred on leaf 8 when Whitman revised Poem V ("Long I thought that knowledge alone would suffice me") by striking "the examples" from the clause, "I heard the examples of warriors," with five diagonal black ink strokes (5.3). The four cancellation strokes applied to "examples" offset to the verso of the preceding leaf 7 when Whitman pinned the two leaves together at the top, and these offsets align with the original pen strokes on leaf 8 when the pinholes are aligned, but not when the notebook hinge points of the leaves are aligned (see figure 18). The final class 3 revision was made by Whitman on leaf 17 to the opening line of Poem XI, which in its notebook state begins "Earth! My likeness!" (11.1). Whitman cancelled the expression "My likeness!" with three diagonal strokes in a black ink. The ink offset to the verso of leaf 16, but the offsets fail to match with the positions of the original pen strokes when either the hinge points or the pinholes are aligned (see figure 19). In fact, the pen strokes and their offsets do not even align uniformly with one another when any one of the strikeouts on leaf 17 is matched to its offset on leaf 16. Perhaps the best explanation for this nonalignment is that it resulted from some modest degree of paper shuffling by Whitman when the ink from the pen strokes was still wet, which itself suggests that the leaves were detached from the notebook when the revision was made. Whatever the case, non-alignment between the offsets and hinge points supplies conclusive proof that the leaves existed in detached states at the time of revision.

Whitman's ink alterations to the "Live Oak" poems display a level of care and neatness of execution that indicates considerable concern to preserve their neat appearance. But no such care is evident in his pencil alterations, in which cancellations appear not as precise diagonal slashes and single horizontal strikes but as rapidly executed cross-outs and scribbled blots (e.g., 2.3 with). The execution of pencil interlineations, too, reveals a compression of script and untidy placement much more characteristic of draft status than of finalized copy (e.g., 5.2 me—). From his broad survey of the manuscripts in the Barrett Collection at the University of Virginia, Bowers identified a revision sequence of pencil, dark ink, pencil again, and brown ink (Whitman's Manuscripts lii and xxvii). While additional sub-stages are likely, the superseding of a class 4 black ink revision by multiple pencil stages on leaf 5, Poem III (3.3 the), indicates Whitman's pencil revisions to the "Live Oak" poems can be classified as among those that occurred later rather than earlier in the sequence of revision. But it is their work-stage appearance that most clearly indicates Whitman had ceased to be concerned about the visual appearance of the manuscripts when he made the pencil changes. They contrast markedly with the fair-copy state of the ink inscription, and can be grouped with the class 3 ink revisions as changes that followed disassembly.

Interpretive Significance of the Restorations

The original "Live Oak, with Moss" sequence displays powerful thematic patterns that are muddled by the versions currently in print. The speaker's reference to the sequence as a collective whole in Poem II ("I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing") would seem naturally to imply such unifying elements. But in addition to removing the reference itself, Whitman's brown-ink revision to this poem prematurely introduces the concept of "manly love" that had originally not appeared in the sequence until Poem IX ("I dreamed in a dream"), where it emerged with climactic effect in the speaker's dream vision of a fraternal urban stronghold. Whitman, of course, had no intention of diminishing this culminative impact when he made the revision, for he had already disassembled the sequence and was focused instead on incorporating Poem II within a larger cluster of poems. As "Calamus" No. 20, Poem II has become one of Whitman's best known poems, and it is widely anthologized apart from the "Calamus" cluster. Its reference to "manly love" has come to be associated with his signature comradeship theme perhaps more routinely than any other line in Leaves of Grass. But its presence in Poem II has a dampening effect on the role Whitman originally intended for the concept in "Live Oak, with Moss," where in Bowers's edition its early intrusion diminishes the original impact it carried near the end of the sequence in Poem IX.

The paste-over alteration to Poem III has similarly distorting effects when it is allowed to stand as a legitimate revision to "Live Oak, with Moss." At the very outset of the sequence in Poem I, Whitman established a motif of emotional primacy over nature with the speaker's avowal that "Not the heat flames up and consumes, / Not the sea-waves hurry in and out . . . more than the flames of me, consuming, burning for his love whom I love—O none, more than I, hurrying in and out" (1.1-4). The rhetoric of negation extends to Poem II, where the speaker distances himself from nature in the form of the live oak tree that stands "alone there without its friend, its lover—For I knew I could not" (11). The notebook state of Poem III follows coherently from the previous two, with the speaker declaring his happiness in terms that combine his subordinating conception of nature in Poem I and his rejection of the tree's solitary joy in Poem II (see figure 15):

And that night O you happy waters, I heard you beating the shores—But my heart beat happier than you—for he I love was returned and sleeping by my side, And that night in the stillness his face was inclined toward me while the moon's clear beams shone, And his arm lay lightly over my breast—And that night I was happy. (3.9-11)
These lines depict the natural world quite differently from the post-dismantlement version's chorus of "liquid and sands" that directly address the speaker, "whispering to congratulate" him on his union with his lover. Instead, the above lines reveal the speaker's subordination of natural processes to his own emotional experience and his rejection of nature's self-sufficiency as a standard for behavior—conceptions that correspond with the speaker's attitudes toward natural phenomena in Poems I and II. In supplanting the above lines with the paste-over revision, Whitman substantially altered the speaker's conception of nature from one of aloofness to sympathetic endorsement, but his act of doing so had no bearing on the form and meaning of "Live Oak, with Moss." By the time he replaced the speaker's subordinating address to nature in Poem III with the radically different version, Whitman had ceased thinking of the poem as the third section of an intact sequence that continued motifs present in Poems I and II. The notebook was disassembled, and he had begun to conceive of the "Live Oak" poems as parts of a different work with a different artistic plan.

To be sure, critics of the versions of "Live Oak, with Moss" currently in print have had no difficulty attributing significance to this and other post-dismantlement revisions in their efforts to interpret the sequence. But however relevant their pronouncements may be to the revised forms of the poems as Whitman published them in "Calamus," they are not applicable to "Live Oak, with Moss." In particular, critics interpreting the sequence have commonly read Poem II's reference to "manly love" and Poem III's congratulatory approval as natural affirmations of same-sex love that counter a socially imposed hetero-normative standard against which the speaker is said to struggle in the sequence. These judgments inform Helms's strident verdict that "homophobia wins the determining agon of 'Live Oak'" (190) and Erkkila's foreboding sense of "something that threatens and disturbs" in the imagery of Whitman's paste-over revision to Poem III (105). Erkkila's reading of nature in the post-dismantlement version is representative: "Far from being shocked by this scene of two men sleeping together as a crime against nature, the rhythmic flow of nature appears to be at one with their erotic union, as the sea congratulates the poet on his love choice" (106). [22] But along with discrediting such interpretations of nature in "Live Oak, with Moss," the restoration to Poem III should prompt us to reconsider the heavy emphasis critics have placed on the forces of social proscription in the sequence.

The emotional progress of the sequence—from anticipation to fulfillment, from parting to rupture, and from heartache to resolve—overwhelmingly concerns the speaker's dissatisfaction with solitude rather than a conflict with social norms. [23] Whereas some passages in the sequence may suggest the anxiety and secrecy of social marginalization, the consistent attitude toward nature in the opening three poems reveals the speaker's primary conflict is not with an oppressive society but with a constraining intellectual and philosophical tradition, namely the well-known nineteenth-century association of spiritual transcendence with isolated natural experience. When considered in that context, the thematic trajectory of "Live Oak" Poems I, II, and III provides unique insight on Whitman's increasing commitment to the transcendent value of love and comradeship in the years following the first two editions of Leaves of Grass, for nowhere else in Whitman's writings do we find the quintessentially romantic coordination of solitude and nature negated with such sustained and controlled deliberateness as this. In the 1855 and 1856 editions of Leaves, the equation from English and American literary sources (with origins in German philosophy) is apparent in Whitman's opening self-portrayal, "I lean and loafe at my ease . . . . observing a spear of summer grass." [24] Although Whitman had there gone on to present a broadened version of transcendent experience encompassing sympathetic interaction among fellow human beings, nowhere in Leaves did he come close to denying the compatibility of the natural world with individual experience. But in "Live Oak, with Moss," the poet's highly controlled subordination of natural phenomena to the bliss of human affections and his outright rejection of the tree's solitary joy mark a pointed moment in transatlantic and native literary influence. The sequence reveals Whitman's extraordinary refutation of the transcendental pose informing many important contemporaneous works, from William Wordsworth's assertion of "the bliss of solitude" in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (1807) to Ralph Waldo Emerson's account of isolated interfusion as a "transparent eyeball" in Nature (1836). [25]

The subordinating rhetoric of Poem I suggests a break in particular with transcendentalist notions of mutual attunement between the self and nature, as illustrated by Emerson's assertion in "The American Scholar" that "nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part" (55). The poem's repeated denial of nature's correspondence with the soul and its gravitation instead toward love and friendship illustrate an alternative ethos of sympathetic exchange among men. The attitude towards nature is present in an entry Whitman inscribed in another notebook kept by him in the 1850s:

The air which furnishes me the breath to speak is subtle and boundless—but what is it compared to the things it serves me to speak—the meanings—. [26]
While Emerson would not have disputed Whitman's emphasis on the expressive role of the poet in this passage, its open-ended query indicates the same divergence in Whitman's debt to transcendentalism that we see in Poem I, where the speaker's capacities to express and receive love distinguish him from the rest of creation. [27] Perhaps this position of philosophical dissent explains the "curious" quality of the title image in Poem II, where its incongruousness may derive from what the speaker there terms its superfluity as a memento of friendship. Owing to the tree's self-sufficiency, the token is in its own right unsuitable as a symbol of camaraderie. The image acquires meaning only through the poet's imaginative appropriation of material phenomena for the purpose of humanistic expression, an act not to be fulfilled until the speaker bonds with a fellow human being. Thus construed, the ambiguity associated with the live oak twig and moss in Poem II becomes resolved at the end of the sequence with the speaker's determination to "engraft" his knowledge of love and heartache on one who is predisposed to receive his message.

In contrast to the mutual attunement attributed to the soul and nature by Emerson, Whitman uses parallel rhetoric at many points of the sequence to illustrate the speaker's desire for balanced reciprocity between himself and other men, e.g. "This moment as I sit alone, yearning and pensive, it seems to me there are other men, in other lands, yearning and pensive" (4.1), and "I am to go with him I love, and he is to go with me" (5.12). Among additional examples in the sequence, an especially meaningful instance derives from the heartache of Poem VIII ("Hours continuing long") when the speaker endeavors to visualize another man capable of identifying with his pain: "Does he see himself reflected in me? In these hours does he see the face of his hours reflected?" (8.12). The sole exception occurs in Poem XI ("Earth! My Likeness!"), where the speaker confesses without qualification that the earth's volcanic forces correspond with "something fierce and terrible" in himself (11.3). But here the reversal is in keeping with the work's elevation of human interaction over natural isolation, for in Poem XI the exception occurs within a context of emotional insecurity prompted by the speaker's fears that his affection may be unreturned. [28] Coming after the episode of rupture and heartache in the sequence, its subject matter contrasts starkly with the ebullience of desire and anticipation depicted in Poem I.

With his breaking up of the sequence, Whitman abandoned its dissenting stance on nature, as revealed by his post-dismantlement portrayal of a natural world that endorses human love and affection in Poem III. In a similar reversal, Whitman's revision of Poem II abruptly identifies the "live oak" image with "manly love," diminishing substantially the alluring ambiguity it had lent to the sequence in its notebook state and replacing that tension with an internal contradiction: the speaker's direct association of a fraternal principle with the tree whose solitude he has just rejected. Odd as it sounds in light of the status "I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing" now holds among Whitman's writings, the effect of the revision may well have been more inadvertent than meaningful, prompted more by his need to eliminate its reference to the abandoned sequence than by any artistic impulse to develop its content. Although Poem I was transferred to "Calamus" without similar revisions, none of the new poems composed by Whitman for the larger cluster displays its dissent from the romantic ideal of mutual attunement with nature.

After dismantlement Whitman likewise abandoned the linear coherence by which Bowers first recognized "Live Oak, with Moss" as an integrated story of crisis and reconstitution. Exact details of how the alteration in plans occurred are beyond knowing. But Whitman's changing succession of titles for the post-dismantlement cluster sheds some light on its evolution. At some point after he disassembled the notebook, but apparently before substituting the title "Calamus-Leaves" for "Live Oak, with Moss" at the head of Poem I, Whitman recorded the following idea for what would become "Enfans d'Adam" in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass ("Children of Adam" in later editions):

A string of Poems, (short, &c.) embodying the amative love of woman—the same as Live Oak Leaves do the passion of friendship for man. [29]
The emergence of "Live Oak Leaves" as title for a work embodying the passion of male friendship would appear to have derived from Whitman's alternate groupings and combination of "Live Oak" poems with additional poems after dismantlement of the notebook. This reordering and expansion of the 12-poem cluster involved a corresponding alteration in the rhetorical character of the cluster, for the now-pluralized title "Live Oak Leaves" suggests Whitman likewise abandoned the linear narrative approach that had characterized the poems in their notebook order. With other poems in preparation for the next edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman was already experimenting with titles such as "Buds," "Droppings," and "Leaves" to label composite groupings of poems loosely connected by shared subjects. Rather than connoting the linear narrative of his original sequence, the loose plurality implied by the title "Live Oak Leaves" suggests instead the nonlinear deployment of leitmotifs implied by the names of these groupings. The early title "Live Oak Leaves" forecasts Whitman's increasing adoption of this approach with the still-greater expansion of poems identified by his next intervening title, "Calamus-Leaves"—an approach fully displayed in the published "Calamus" cluster.

The Restorative Edition of "Live Oak, with Moss"

Whitman abandoned his original intention to privately commemorate "the thoughts, pictures—aspirations, &c. Fit to be perused during the days of the approach of Death." But the product of that intention can be studied in the form of the following digital edition, one that observes and rejects Whitman's changes to the manuscript in accordance with the classifications described above. The restorative edition thus observes class 1 and 2 revisions, as well as Whitman's ambiguous class 4 changes. It rejects Whitman's post-dismantlement class 3 revisions and pencil revisions. Whitman's non-standard spellings such as "prest" for "pressed" (6.5) are preserved, as is the period spelling "develope" (12.1), which he altered in pencil. All changes to the manuscript are described in the accompanying notes—where appropriate with reference to Bowers's versions of the texts in Whitman's Manuscripts (cited in note 3). Presented as an electronically encoded reading text, the restorative edition supplies markup for class 4 revisions to observe their contingent character. Whitman's line breaks are observed to facilitate comparison of the reading text with the accompanying images. With the sole exception of the hyphenated expression, "perfect-model'd," in textual lines 11 and 12 of original notebook leaf 10 (verse line 2 of Poem VI), Whitman's line-end hyphenations consist of single-word compounds that should be represented as unhyphenated words in quotations or transcriptions based on the restorative edition. Double hyphens used for line-end, single-word, and double-word hyphenation are represented as single hyphens. According to Bowers, a former owner of Whitman's manuscripts for the 1860 Leaves, Barnet J. Beyer, is likely the source of pencil annotations at the heads of the leaves identifying them with their "Calamus" numberings (Whitman's Manuscripts xxiii).


This electronic edition is dedicated to Hershel Parker, who brought Whitman's "Live Oak, with Moss" to the attention of scholars and students broadly when he anthologized the sequence for the first time in the Norton Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed. (1994). The Introduction has benefited from feedback by Matt Cohen and from the anonymous peer reviewers for Scholarly Editing, whose co-editor Andrew Jewell created the initial XML file for the introduction and was generous with his time and expertise throughout production. Jewell and co-editor Amanda Gailey offered helpful final edits, and Jessica Ewing assisted with late additions to the table encoding. Jeremy Jensen provided essential technical support for my creation of the edition file, and Shawna Hanel supplied advice and help with imaging. I am also grateful to the staff of University of Virginia's Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library for access to Whitman's manuscripts, and to the University of Virginia Library administration for its generous reproduction policies. Finally, Ed Folsom, Kenneth Price, and the staff of the Walt Whitman Archive have transformed opportunities for scholarship on Whitman, and this project could not have been completed in its present form without their previous work.

For the first print-based version of this edition, assembled by Rutherford Witthus (, see Walt Whitman, Live Oak, with Moss: A Restorative Edition (Walpole, NH: Rutherford Witthus, 2012). Correspondence with Mr. Witthus during print assembly led to several changes to punctuation in the digital version, each of which is documented in the XML file headings. I am grateful to him for his constructive editorial feedback and for the care and expertise he applied to the printed version, which includes a foreword by Richard Tayson, illustrations by Roger Crossgrove, and an afterward excerpted from the above section on the interpretive significance of the restorations.


1. Fredson Bowers, "Whitman's Manuscripts for the Original 'Calamus' Poems," Studies in Bibliography 6 (1953 [for 1954]), 257-65. On 14 March 2014, revisions were made to the opening paragraphs of this introduction to distinguish clearly between Bowers's edition of "Live Oak, with Moss" and that of Hershel Parker in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, eds. Baym et al., 4th through 8th Eds. (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1994-2011). Other current printings of the sequence include The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature, ed. Byrne R. S. Fone (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 552-58; Leaves of Grass and Other Writings, ed. Michael Moon (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2002), 752-56; The Portable Walt Whitman, ed. Michael Warner (London: Penguin, 2003), 204-10; and Walt Whitman's Songs of Male Intimacy and Love: "Live Oak, with Moss" and "Calamus," ed. Betsy Erkkila (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2011), 1-37.Go
2. Alan Helms and Hershel Parker, "Commentary" in Nineteenth-Century Literature 52 (December 1997), 413-16. Helms's rearrangement of the "Calamus" versions of the 12 "Live Oak" poems appeared in "Whitman's 'Live Oak with Moss'" in Robert K. Martin, ed., The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman: The Life After the Life (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992), 185-205. Parker's manuscript-based version first appeared in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 4th ed., ed. Nina Baym, et al., 2 vols. (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1994), 1:2,097–2,101. Parker discusses his and Helms's versions in "The Real 'Live Oak, with Moss': Straight Talk about Whitman's 'Gay Manifesto,'" Nineteenth-Century Literature 51 (September 1996), 145-60. The essays by Helms and Parker and their ensuing exchange are available among selected criticism at the Walt Whitman Archive <>. Kenneth M. Price discusses the controversy and issues raised by it in "Sex, Politics, and 'Live Oak, with Moss'" <>, and with Ed Folsom in Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work (New York: Blackwell Publishers, 2005), 64-66.Go
3. As explained below, this count corrects Bowers's conclusion that the notebook consisted of 20 leaves in Whitman's Manuscripts: Leaves of Grass (1860) A Parallel Text (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1955), lxv. The manuscripts are housed in the Clifton Waller Barrett Collection, "Walt Whitman Calamus MSS," Binder 3829, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, the University of Virginia; hereafter, all references to the manuscripts apply to this resource, with poem and line numbers keyed parenthetically to the restored edition that follows this essay. Images of the rectos and versos linked to the restored edition were first published in Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, eds., Walt Whitman Archive <>. For the Whitman Archive identification numbers assigned to each leaf of the "Live Oak" notebook, see Table 1.Go
4. Holes in the manuscripts caused by pins consist of corresponding entry and exit points where Whitman used the pins to fasten leaves together. Tack holes constitute single, straight-in-and-out punctures where he apparently fixed leaves to surfaces. A strand of thread still exists at the upper left corner of Poem VII (original notebook leaf 11). The marks of a paper clip are visible at the upper left corner of Poem V (original notebook leaf 8) and the upper right corner of the verso of its closing section (the upper half of original notebook leaf 10).Go
5. For the transition from holograph to proof copy and the role of the Rome Brothers, see Bowers, Whitman's Manuscripts, xxiv-vi and xxxi-xxxiii. As documented by Bowers on xix-xx, many of the manuscripts now located in the Barrett Collection appear on a sales list entitled "Walt Whitman Manuscripts in Possession of T. H. Rome, 513 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y.".Go
6. The 1860 "Calamus" numberings of the twelve "Live Oak" poems are 14, 20, 11, 23, 8, 32, 10, 9, 34, 43, 36, and 42.Go
7. W. W. Greg, "The Rationale of Copy-Text," Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950-51), 19-36.Go
8. On the basis of research performed in early stages of the present study, Whitman's original wording has been restored to Poem II of "Live Oak, with Moss" in the Norton Anthology of American Literature (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th eds.) and in the Norton Critical Edition of Leaves of Grass (2nd ed). Other collections featuring "Live Oak, with Moss" (see note 1) duplicate Bowers's editing of Poem II, and all current printings correspond to his edition in other instances of final revision.Go
9. Fredson Bowers, "Current Theories of Copy-Text, with an Illustration from Dryden" Modern Philology 48.1 (August 1950), 12-20.Go
10. Bowers, "Whitman's Manuscripts for the Original 'Calamus' Poems" 259 and Whitman's Manuscripts lxvii; for digital images of the note and draft fragment, see Walt Whitman, "[I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing]. Holograph poem, fragment." Ms. leaf verso, Walt Whitman Manuscripts, The New York Public Library Digital Collections <>Go
11. Although its "Introduction" includes extensive discussion of the "Live Oak" notebook and the reconstituted character of some of its separated leaves, Whitman's Manuscripts (published two years after the appearance of Bowers's 1953 SB essay) includes a degree of analysis that seems to predate Bowers's realization that the manuscripts had originally constituted a sequence. For instance, in describing the joined leaves of Poem VI (see figure 2), Bowers erroneously identifies its top section (lines 1-3) as a "fair-copy revised opening" rather than as the original lower section of the notebook leaf that had preceded the formerly separate leaf containing lines 4 and 5 (116).Go
12. A Critical Guide to Leaves of Grass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 59; David Cavitch, My Soul and I: The Inner Life of Walt Whitman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), 131.Go
13. For a survey of critical pronouncements on "Live Oak, with Moss" in published studies of Whitman, see Steven Olsen-Smith and Hershel Parker, "'Live Oak, with Moss' and 'Calamus': Textual Inhibitions in Whitman Criticism, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 14 (1997), 153-65.Go
14. Erkkila's edition (1-38) includes the title "Calamus-Leaves" and duplicates Bowers's editing of the 12 poems in Whitman's Manuscripts except for several missed textual line breaks in her transcription of poems III and V as well as numerous and apparently inadvertent upper- to lower-case letter changes in her transcription of poems 3 through 9.Go
15. Other possibilities are difficult to credit. According to Bowers (who misread a fiber in the paper as a comma after "finished"), "one can only speculate whether the application is to this poem [Poem VIII], or else was a note added after the inscription of no. VII" (Whitman's Manuscripts 82). But the ink inscription of Poem VIII reveals no sign of abrasion that would normally result from the act of erasure, nor is it likely that Whitman would have recorded the pencil note directly onto the fair copy text of Poem VIII. If he had wished to append such a comment to Poem VIII, there was sufficient blank space beside the Roman numeral heading immediately above the first line of the poem.Go
16. Whitman's notebook ordering of "Live Oak, with Moss" appears to have been the culmination of previous trial arrangements. In addition to the draft fragment of Poem II that displays on its verso Whitman's note about a cluster of poems "fit to be perused in the days of the approach of death," canceled draft fragments also exist for what would become "Live Oak" Poems III ("When I heard at the close of day"), VIII ("Hours continuing long"), and XI ("Earth! My likeness!"). In these canceled draft states, Poems III and XI are numbered IV and VI, indicating Whitman completed an earlier arrangement of at least six of the twelve poems before inscribing them in the notebook version of "Live Oak, with Moss." The drafts exist on the versos of un-canceled mss: see Whitman Archive uva.00179.016 <>, duk.00282.001 (for an image of Whitman's note headed "Religious Canticles," with the verso's fragment of "Hours continuing long" faintly discernible) <>, and loc.00225.001 <>. Bowers erroneously identifies the earlier Roman numbering of Poem III as "V" in Whitman's Manuscripts, 89. Each of the surviving drafts was struck through by Whitman with a vertical ink line to signify its superseded state.Go
17. For the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass Whitman altered the third line of this poem to read in part, "I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd"; see Leaves of Grass: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, ed. Sculley Bradley et al. 3 Vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1980) 2: 404. For a fuller consideration of the possibility of sublimation, and an analysis of unifying elements in "Live Oak, with Moss," see Steven Olsen-Smith, "'Live Oak, with Moss,' 'Calamus,' and 'Children of Adam'" in Donald Kummings, ed., A Companion to Walt Whitman, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 508-21.Go
18. Residual glue and lavender-colored paper on the left edge of W1a leaf 2 may indicate that Whitman first removed the blank outer conjugate notebook leaves 1 and 22 and attempted to preserve the remaining leaves intact with a more visually distinctive cover.Go
19. Both revisions produced wet ink that transferred to the preceding verso when Whitman closed the notebook after making the changes. In his revision to Poem II the diagonal down-stroke of the f in "life" offset to the recto of leaf 2. The offset matches with the original pen stroke when the notebook hinge points of the separated leaves are aligned, and they do not match when the connective pinholes of leaves 1 and 2 are aligned, showing that the revision was made when the notebook was still intact. Whitman over-wrote the f with a v in the same ink, likely before going on to inscribe the terminal e. In the same manner, the exclamation point added by Whitman to line 1 of Poem VII offset to the preceding verso of leaf 10 of the intact notebook.Go
20. Offset alignments were established, first, with a Porta-Trace fluorescent light panel (mfd. by Gagne Associates, Inc. Binghamton, N. Y.) supplied by staff of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Division, University of Virginia Library, and, later, with imaging software tools in Adobe Photoshop.Go
21. The question naturally arises whether or not the white wove paste-over patch derives from one of the two unlocated notebook leaves. As observed above, vestiges of brown ink letter forms at the severed edges of paste-over revisions to "Calamus" 37 and "So Long!" reveal that W1a notebook leaf 1 (of which these two paste-over leaves were originally its conjugate half) was used for some other purpose of inscription, and so leaf 1 can be ruled out on that basis. No such vestiges remain of the missing W1b notebook leaf 21, but it too can be ruled out on the basis of material evidence. The bottom edge of the leaf 6 paste-over is a straight factory cut resembling the clean bottom edges of all the leaves from which Whitman assembled his notebook, the other three edges of which were unevenly cut. If the leaf 6 paste-over derived from the missing leaf 21, it would therefore have to be from the lower portion of the leaf that preserved the straight factory edge. But a machine-direction line running immediately parallel to the bottom edge of notebook leaf 2 (leaf 21's conjugate half) is not to be found on the leaf 6 paste-over, revealing that the patch derives from some other sheet of white wove paper and never constituted a portion of the notebook.Go
22. See also Richard Tayson, who emphasizes "that the natural world approves of Whitman's homosexual union with his friend, his lover, and of their 'manly love'" in "The Casualties of Walt Whitman," Virginia Quarterly Review 81 (Spring 2005): 79-95. While observing the paste-over revision to Poem III in their editions of "Live Oak, with Moss" (see note 1), Fone and Erkkila each reprint Bowers's transcription of Whitman's original conclusion in a footnote, with both duplicating Bowers's erroneous reading of "is" for "was" in "he I love was returned and sleeping by my side" (see Bowers, Whitman's Manuscripts 88).Go
23. The attribution of linear coherence is contested by Erkkila, who asserts of Poems I through III that "there is no logical narrative progression in these three poems" and argues that the sequence as a whole should be construed as moving "paratactically, by juxtaposition and association rather than by any clear, logical, or linear development" (106). But there is no need to accept this choice between mutually exclusive narrative and montage. Whitman indeed violates strict linear development from poem to poem in the sequence by alternating between recollection and meditation, and by sometimes communicating the speaker's thoughts and experiences by proxy in his depictions of other men. But these rhetorical innovations augment rather than diminish the significance of the narrative account, much as similarly multivalent rhetorical applications augment Whitman's account of a life journey in "Song of Myself" and the poet's progress from mourning to recovery in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." In "Live Oak, with Moss," Whitman's rhetorical freedoms play out within a logically ordered sequence of emotional experiences and attitudes that make up the narrative account of love, heartache, and reconstitution.Go
24. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: A Textual Variorum of the Printed Poems, ed. Sculley Bradley et al. 3 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1980), 1:1.Go
25. William Wordsworth, Poems, in Two Volumes, and Other Poems, 1800-1807, ed. Jared Curtis (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 207. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Addresses, and Lectures, eds. Robert E. Spiller and Albert R. Ferguson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), 10.Go
26. See "you know how," leaf 13 verso, Whitman Archive loc.00142, <>Go
27. Among Whitman's documented responses to Emerson's ideas is his written reflection on Essays: First Series (Boston: Munroe, 1847), where among enthusiastic praise for Emerson's essays he noted, "Those on Friendship and Love are the least good in the volume"; see [Notes on] Emerson Essays -- 1st Series -- copyrighted 1847. Holograph MS, unsigned, undated. New York Public Library Digital Collections <>Go
28. See Olsen-Smith (516-17) for a fuller discussion of Poem XI and its likely concern with unreturned affection, particularly in connection with the poem that would become "Calamus" 39, which Whitman inscribed on leaf 20 of the disassembled "Live Oak" notebook (see figure 6).Go