Commentary

Contemporary Reviews

GOOD-BYE MY FANCY.

THERE is something at once very pathetic and courageous in this definitive leave-taking by the poet Walt Whitman. His traits and his place in literature need no farther discussion at present; neither does his absorbent personality that has desired to assimilate the world, or the singular contests of praise and blame which have been waged about him. Such as he is—and surely he is unique -he now bids farewell, and yet not farewell, to his gift of utterance:

On, on the same, ye jocund twain!
My life and recitative . . .
. . . I and my recitatives, with faith and love
Waiting to other work, to unknown songs, conditions,
On, on, ye jocund twain! continue on the same!

And again:

Good-bye my Fancy,
Farewell dear mate, dear love!
I'm going away, I know not where
Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again,
So Good-bye my Fancy . . . .
If we go anywhere we'll go together to meet what happens,
Maybe we'll be better off and blither, and learn something,
May-be it is yourself now really ushering me to the true
      songs (who knows?)
May-be it is you the mortal knot really undoing, turning—
      so now finally
Good-bye—and hail, my Fancy.

Other poems in this small but characteristic collection continue the design of the author's previous work, completing the message "today at twilight. . .with vital voice, reporting yet"—the brave veteran! More than half the volume is made up of prose articles and fragments. In these Mr. Whitman's manner remains much the same as in his chants, while the reader is at least spared the continual negation of the laws of the technical art of poetry. In an essay on "National Literature" he finds the essential traits of the American people to be good-nature, decorum, and intelligence, and bases his hopes upon these qualities. In music, despite the critics who assure him he belongs to the worship of Wagner, he dwelt under "the old Italian dispensation," as he calls it, and wishes that he might thank the composer Verdi for "much noble pleasure and happiness." The somber velvet of the voice of Signora Alboni1 also charmed him; and the brave songs of the Hutchinsons, with their sister, "the red-cheeked New England carnation, sweet Abby."2 Kean in King John, and Fanny Kemble in Fazio, "a rapid-running, yet heavy-timber'd, tremendous, wrenching, passionate play," and the comedy of Hackett,3 appealed, in their day, to Mr. Whitman; and were followed in his theatrical enjoyments by a long list of other artists. He describes his habitation, "a rather large 20 by 20 low-ceiling'd room something like a big old ship's cabin," in literary disorder of papers and books, with its three windows, the stove and oak-wood fuel, and the great arm-chair spread with a "wide wolf-skin of hairy black and silver."

If this volume shall be, as the author appears to intend, his last literary effort, it closes firmly and fitly the literary career of a poet who has with pride and fidelity obeyed his own genius, and who has sought to collect within himself, and to understand and speak—in his oracular, strange voice—the experiences of common humanity.

Good-Bye My Fancy By Walt Whitman D. McKay. $1.00.



Publication Information
[Anonymous]. "Good-Bye My Fancy." The Literary World 22 (12 September 1891): 305.


Notes
1.  The Italian contralto opera singer Marietta Alboni (1823-1894) gained fame for her classic Italian bel canto  (Back)

2.  The Hutchinson Family ensemble consisted at various times of different combinations of the children of Jesse Hutchinson and his wife Mary. This popular mid-nineteenth-century singing group addressed social issues such as abolition and women's suffrage.  (Back)

3.  James Henry Hackett (1800-1871) was an American actor notable for his character parts. He served as manager of the Astor Place Opera House at the time of the famous riots of May 1849 riots.  (Back)


Whitman Archive ID
anc.00138


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