In the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855), the poem that has come to be known as “Song of Myself” appeared without a title and without numbered sections or stanzas.
In the second edition (1856), Whitman titled it “Poem of Walt Whitman, an American,” and in the third edition (1860) he titled it “Walt Whitman.” The piece retained that titled in the third (1867) and fourth (1871) editions.
Whitman first gave the title “Song of Myself” to this, his most famous and influential poem, in the penultimate/fifth edition in 1881. In addition to the change of title and use of numbered section, Whitman made numerous other changes in the poem from the first 1855 printing until the 1881 final version.
This (the countless modifications across editions) is true of many of Whitman’s poems, and it is difficult to track all those changes within the scope of a digital humanities project like Poetry Genius. To learn more about how Whitman’s poetry changed over time, consult a Leaves of Grass variorum or talk to dalmo, who would gladly spend hours and hours talking about this.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman and leave a comment on the lyrics box