To William D. O'Connor
ADDRESS: Wm D O'Connor|Light House Board|
Treasury Department|Washington|D C.
POSTMARK: New York|Jan|6.
Brooklyn January 6 1865
Your welcome letter of December 30 came safe. I have written & sent my application to Mr Otto, & also a few lines to Mr Ashton, with a copy of it. I am most desirous to get the appointment, as enclosing, with the rest of the points, my attentions to the soldiers & to my poems, as you intimate.
It may be Drum-Taps may come out this winter, yet, (in the way I have mentioned in times past.) It is in a state to put right through, a perfect copy being ready for the printers-I feel at last, & for the first time without any demur, that I am satisfied with it-content to have it go to the world verbatim & punctuation. It is in my opinion superior to Leaves of Grass-certainly more perfect as a work of art, being adjusted in all its proportions, & its passion having the indispensable merit that though to the ordinary reader let loose with wildest abandon, the true artist can see it is yet under control. But I am perhaps mainly satisfied with Drum-Taps because it delivers my ambition of the task that has haunted me, namely, to express in a poem (& in the way I like, which is not at all by directly stating it) the pending action of this Time & Land we swim in, with all their large conflicting fluctuations of despair & hope, the shiftings, masses, & the whirl & deafening din, (yet over all, as by invisible hand, a definite purport & idea) -with the unprecedented anguish of wounded & suffering, the beautiful young men, in wholesale death & agony, everything sometimes as if in blood color, & dripping blood. The book is therefore unprecedently sad, (as these days are, are they not?)-but it also has the blast of the trumpet, & the drum pounds & whirrs in it, & then an undertone of sweetest comradeship & human love, threading its steady thread inside the chaos, & heard at every lull & interstice thereof-truly also it has clear notes of faith & triumph.
Drum Taps has none of the perturbations of Leaves of Grass. I am satisfied with Leaves of Grass (by far the most of it) as expressing what was intended, namely, to express by sharp-cut self assertion, One's Self & also, or may be still more, to map out, to throw together for American use, a gigantic embryo or skeleton of Personality, fit for the West, for native models-but there are a few things I shall carefully eliminate in the next issue, & a few more I shall considerably change.
I see I have said I consider Drum-Taps superior to Leaves of Grass. I probably mean as a piece of wit, & from the more simple & winning nature of the subject, & also because I have in it only succeeded to my satisfaction in removing all superfluity from it, verbal superfluity I mean. I delight to make a poem where I feel clear that not a word but is indispensable part thereof & of my meaning.
Still Leaves of Grass is dear to me, always dearest to me, as my first born, as daughter of my life's first hopes, doubts, & the putting in form of those days' efforts & aspirations-true, I see now, with some things in it I should not put in if I were to write now, but yet I shall certainly let them stand, even if but for proofs of phases passed away-
Mother & all home are well as usual. Not a word for over three months from my brother George-the probabilities are most gloomy. I see the Howells now & then. I am well, but need to leave here-need a change. If you see Miss Howard tell her Jesse Mullery has been to see me-came yesterday & has just left this forenoon. He talked of nothing but her. His life is saved, & he will have tolerably good strength & health, at least for present. His address is Ward 7, Centre st Hospital, Newark New Jersey. I was up at Mrs Price's the other night. She is better this winter. Mrs Paulina Wright Davis is stopping with her this winter. I have sent a paper with sketch of Hospital Visits, to Dr Wm F Channing. I cannot forgive myself for not acknowledging his assistance for the Hospitals, by letter at the time. I send you another paper also, as you might like it. I take it by a line in your letter that Charles Eldridge has not gone to Boston. I have been reading the strange articles from the Richmond press. A thousand Satans baffled, with terror, hatred, malignant squirming, appear in every paragraph. Little California is playing around me as I finish, & has been for half an hour. Love to dear Nelly & Jeannie & all.