Weekly Whitman: “This Dust was Once the Man”

The four lines below are the last entry in Whitman’s Lincoln grouping. They are strangely sorrowful and hopeful at the same time. Although rarely published, it is a fitting tribute to the slain president. Whitman and Lincoln are forever connected by Whitman’s series of poems about the President. He captured the excitement of 1861, the long slog of the mid-war years, and finally the effect of the blow to the North that Lincoln’s assassination had. In this short offering, Whitman seems at peace with events, and with himself.


This dust was once the man,

Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand,

Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age,

Was saved the Union of these States.

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