From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"THE remarkable American rhapsodist who has inoculated a certain number of English readers and writers with the singular form of ethical and æsthetic rabies for which his name supplies the proper medical term of definition is usually regarded by others than Whitmaniacs as simply a blatant quack – a vehement and emphatic dunce, of incomparable vanity and volubility, inconceivable pretensions and incompetence." --"Whitmania" (1887) by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. Proclaimed the "greatest of all American poets" by many foreign observers a mere four years after his death, he is viewed as the first urban poet.
He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and Realism, incorporating both views in his works. His works have even been translated into more than 25 languages. Whitman is among the most influential and controversial poets in the American canon. His work has been described as a "rude shock" and "the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature." He largely abandoned the metrical structures of European poetry for an expansionist freestyle verse—"irregular" but "beautifully rhythmic" — which represented his philosophical view that America was destined to reinvent the world as emancipator and liberator of the human spirit. As Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass (By Blue Ontario's Shore), "Rhymes and rhymers pass away...America justifies itself, give it time..."