And, like the young nation itself in so many ways, during the time in which Whitman wrote, these three poems from Leaves of Grass are unbridled, exuberant, and optimistic in tone, theme, style, and content.
Each poem is also alive with sensory impressions; sensuality, or both.
Within America before the Civil War, American literature most often closely imitated writing styles, tones and even thematic concerns of both past and present British authors.
Before the poetry of Whitman in particular, American poets like Bradstreet, Taylor, Bryant, Wheatley, and others adopted British verse forms and other poetic conventions, shaping them to their own artistic voices and concerns within the New World.
(38) Philosophically, Whitman was a Transcendentalist, like Emerson, Thoreau, and others of the time who considered the abstract and metaphysical to be more valuable than that which was material or measurable.
Within his earlier works, the opening poems of Leaves of Grass in particular, Whitman often expressed an implicit philosophy similar to that of the Emerson Over-soul, or of one big soul of which everyone is a part.
Whitman's open-armed, free-verse celebrations of America's vastness, resources, and opportunities, and its people and possibilities, is distinctly American verse -- that is, for and about America --, and in that way, Whitman was like that of no poet before him.
Through examining Whitman's unique poetic voice and personal philosophy of poetry, and also by explicating two sets of Whitman's free-verse poems: first, three of his earliest poems from Leaves of Grass (1855) and then four of his later Civil War poems, written from 1861-1865, all of which moved far beyond British influence, it shall become clear that Walt Whitman was a great innovator of modern American poetry, and one who offered America its first distinct poetic voice.
The American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was the first of these to embrace uniquely American themes, styles, and literary concerns.
Whitman in fact established the first uniquely American voice within poetry, one separate from the mostly pre-Victorian and Victorian -inspired poetic styles, forms, and even themes of earlier American poets.