Walt Whitman, who lived from 1819 to 1892, is one of the most influential and beloved of American poets. As a young man, Whitman worked as a teacher in one-room schools on Long Island, New York. He taught until 1841 when he decided to begin a full-time career in journalism. Whitman established the Long- Islander, a weekly newspaper in New York, and often edited other newspapers in the surrounding area. He also spent time in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Washington, DC. By traveling to different cities in the United States, Whitman was exposed to how Americans lived in a variety of places. These experiences provided inspiration for some of Whitman’s famous poems about his fellow countrymen, including “I Hear America Singing.”
This poem was included in Whitman’s most cherished work, the poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. Throughout his life, Whitman produced several editions of Leaves of Grass, a varied collection that began with only twelve poems in the 1855 first edition and contained nearly four hundred poems by the time the final edition was published in 1891. “I Hear America Singing,” a celebration of the American people, was added to the collection in 1860.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.