Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

September 2002


Published in Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 20:2 (Fall 2002), pp. 78–80. Copyright © 2002 by the University of Iowa. Used by permission.


In a 1985 article in the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, Arthur Golden speculates that the verse from a manuscript in the Library of Congress's Feinberg Collection attributed to Whitman by Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley entitled "[I'll Trace This Garden]" was not actually Whitman's composition. Noting the presence of Emerson's poem "Brahma" in Whitman's hand on the verso of the leaf containing "[I'll Trace This Garden]," Golden concludes that "Whitman was simply passing the time by writing out from memory two poems that had appealed to him."' Though Golden's argument is convincing, he offers only conjecture, noting "I have been unsuccessful in locating the authorship of this poem, but those I've queried generally support its place among the sentimental magazine or newspaper verses of the period."

Though Golden is mistaken to attribute "[I'll Trace This Garden]" to sentimental periodical poetry, he is right on his major point: "[I'll Trace This Garden]" is not a Whitman composition. It is, in fact, a version of a folk song with roots in the British Isles, the American Revolution, and, most importantly, the American Civil War.