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A single specimen found!
Website Editor | Aug 11, 2022
Quercus engelmannii seedling
Importing acorns for ex-situ conservation
Josephine Brennan | Aug 02, 2022
Quercus welshii on dunes site south of Kayenta, Ariz.
A threatened oak found in northern Arizona and southern...
Cindy Newlander | Jul 31, 2022

Plant Focus

Quercus tonduzii with acorn
An oak found only on a volcano in Costa Rica

"I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing" by Walt Whitman

Our third post of poems featuring oaks again has Quercus virginiana (southern live oak) as its theme, this time in a poem by Walt Whitman. The sight of a lonely moss-draped oak, covered in luxuriant foliage, leads the poet to muse on the relationship between loneliness and creativity.

If you would like to propose a poem for inclusion in this series, please click here.

I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well that I could not.

 

From Leaves of Grass (1891-2) (1892)

Below is the "fair-copy" manuscript of the poem, from the University of Virginia's Valentine-Barrett collection.

 

Wahitman 1

Whitman 2

Source: The Walt Whitman Archive. Gen. ed. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, and Kenneth M. Price. Accessed 26 May 2015. http://www.whitmanarchive.org.


Walt Whitman, in full Walter Whitman (born May 31, 1819, West Hills, Long Island, New York, U.S.—died March 26, 1892, Camden, New Jersey), was a poet, journalist, and essayist whose verse collection Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, is a landmark in the history of U.S. literature.