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The part of the poem that Whitman’s contemporary readers seemed to miss, Whitman indicates his purpose in writing.


Whitman’s simple, optimistic poem is amazingly among those which caused uproar in his day.

Whitman’s poem celebrates the great level of American civilization in its [America’s] ability to deliver a parcel across “a thousand miles” through storm and snow in a mere 3 days. But citizens suffering misfortune at the time, due to the March blizzard of 1888 that blindsided the coast, took great offense at Whitman’s optimism and good fortune and many wrote poems mocking Whitman [though most of these took particular aim at “The First Dandelion,” published 6 days earlier].

For more, see these notes from the Walt Whitman Archive:

1 1

[Voltaire closed a famous argument by claiming that a ship of war and the grand opera were proofs enough of civilizations and Frances progress, in his day.]

2 1

A lesser proof than old Voltaires, yet greater,
Proof of this present time, and thee, thy broad expanse,
To my plain Northern hut, in outside clouds and snow,
Brought safely for a thousand miles oer land and tide,
Some three days since on their own soil live-sprouting,
Now here their sweetness through my room unfolding,
A bunch of orange buds by mail from Florida.