Poet of democracy: Walt Whitman and the celebration of the divine average

When Walt Whitman arrived in Washington at the end of 1862 to take up residence in the city and serve as a hospital volunteer, the construction of the Capitol dome was not yet complete. In a dispatch published in the Oct 4, 1863 edition of The New York Times, Whitman described this "vast eggshell, built of iron and glass, this dome - a beauteous bubble" that "emerges calm and aloft from the hill, out of a dense mass of trees".

The poet recounted how a "few days ago, poking about there, eastern side" he found the yet-to-be-hoisted Statue of Freedom that now crowns the Capitol dome "all dismembered, scattered on the ground, by the basement front".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Poet of democracy: Walt Whitman and the celebration of the divine average'. Subscribe