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While Walt Whitman’s thematic use of the Orient continues to receive critical attention based on his explicit foreign references, aside from observations of specific Persian signifiers in “A Persian Lesson,” his engagement with the poetry of Iran has remained especially speculative and therefore analogical, with studies like J. R. LeMaster and Sabahat Jahan’s Walt Whitman and the Persian Poets showing how his mystical relation to his own religious influences tends to resemble the Sufism of Rumi and Hafez. A new discovery emerging from an examination of his personal copy of William Alger’s The Poetry of the East along with his reading of Emerson’s essay “Persian Poetry,” however, reveal a rather subtle yet sustained attempt to directly imitate the foreign verse throughout much of Drum-Taps. That his reliance upon identifiable foreign models to depict what he deemed his nation’s most significant historical moment further coincides with a dramatic shift in style of writing calls for closer comparative analysis of how and why he came to mimic translations of this poetry. Such a reading suggests that compared with previous Orientalist studies, Whitman appears even more personally invested in Persian verse, using it to surrender the distinct Romantic individuality of his earlier poems for the greater spiritual preservation of his conflicted nation.


Originally published as: Sedarat, Roger. ““The Battle Trumpet Blown!” : Whitman’s Persian Imitations in Drum-Taps”, Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. vol. 39, no. 4, 2022. doi:



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