Walt Whitman, the ur-poet, the American hero, the good gray poet, the heartwarming Civil War mourner & healer, the genial bard... but Walt comes in for a sharp critique in Jeffrey Walker's book Bardic ethos. The dark side of Whitman - Walt the cynic, the trumpeter of a "sacerdotal" bardic elite, the sour nay-sayer, the progenitor of the Pound-Williams-Olson strain of eccentric tinpot authoritarian-populist negativity...

(For anybody who's ever interested, there's a kind of parody or satire (& elegy) on "crackpot" populism in Stubborn Grew.)

Walker examines how Pound, Williams and Crane were influenced by Whitman's turn-of-the-century mystical "cosmic consciousness" disciples, especially R.M. Bucke - and how such thought merged with early 20th-century trends which called for an American anti-business artistic-spiritual elite - a sort of intellectual aristocracy - to return America to its mystical-agrarian high destiny.

Walker seems unfair to Crane (just as his picture of Whitman is one-sided - though a necessary addition). He extrapolates from Crane's mystical thinking a wholesale commitment on his part to the elitist-authoritarian stances of various literary ideologues - a supposed commitment for which he gives very little evidence (the elitist-populist-anti-capitalist potboiling - fascism or proto-fascism, basically - is much more evident in Pound & Williams).

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