Born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, Walt Whitman spent his childhood and early adulthood amid the sights and sounds of New York City and its environs.
This survey of Walt Whitman's career--in particular, the relationship between his poetry and the emerging culture of public celebrity in the nineteenth-century United States--contains an analysis of Whitman's unfinished poem about Pfaff's, "The Two Vaults," in which Blake interprets the images of the poem in the light of Ameican celebrity culture.
Blake writes of the Pfaff's-inspired poem "The Two Vaults," "The poem expresses Whitman's frustration that he does not capture the attention of the passerby. Hidden in the vault, he cannot circulate among the crowds. Whether he envies the commodities or sees himself rightfully among them, his isolation is a kind of death, for to be alive in Leaves of Grass is frequently to be on display. The storefronts 'blaze', the fabrics 'vividly' attract the eye. The poet's eye moves from the objects to the people to the people's flitting interest in each other on Broadway. If thriving as a poet meant that one had been consumed by the people, then reaching these crowds would make both Whitman and his book complete. As long as he sat in the basement saloon, his identity as a poet would amount to an unsubstantiated claim" (62-63).
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015