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When Walt Whitman Was a Parisian

Asselineau, Roger. "When Walt Whitman Was a Parisian." Walt Whitman of Mickle Street: A Centennial Collection. Ed. Geoffrey M. Sill. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1994. 270-275.
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essay, history, criticism

Asselineau cites a poem by Henri Murger, the father of the French bohemians from whose book Scenes on "La Vie de Boheme" Henry Clapp learned the bohemian lifestyle, titled "The Midnight Visitor" ("La Ballade du desespere") that Whitman recited during the 1870s. (Asselineau's sources are Clifton Joseph Furness's Walt Whitman's Workshop, pages 207-08 and William Sloane Kennedy's The Fight of a Book for the World, pages 79-80.)

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--Whose steps are those? Who comes so late?
--Let me come in--the door unlock.
--'Tis midnight now--my lonely gate
I open to no stranger's knock.

Who art thou? Speak!--In me find Fame;
To immortality I lead.
--Pass, idle phantom of a name.
--Listen again, and now take heed.

'Twas false--my names are Song, Love, Art;
My poet, now unbar the door/
--Art's dead--Song cannot touch my heart,
My once Love's name I chant no more.

--Open then, now--for see, I stand,
Richesmy name, with endless gold,
Gold, and your wish in either hand.
--Too late--my youth you still withhold.

--Then, if it must be, since the door
Stands shut, my last true name to know,
Men call me Death. Delay no more;
I bring the cure of every woe.

(The door flies wide.)--Ah, guest so wan,
Forgive the poor place where I dwell,
An ice-cold hearth, a heart-sick man
Stands here to welcome thee full well.

People Mentioned in this Work

Whitman, Walt [pages:272-3]

Whitman's affiliation with Pfaff's is mentioned. Asselineau writes that "though Whitman never went to Paris, he often lived there in imagination and even identified himself with a number of Parisian writers" (273). These writers include Henri Murger, Victor Hugo, and Beranger.