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"To A Locomotive in Winter" (Excerpt)

Walt Whitman ardently depicted scenes and objects of modernity in the mid 19th century, seeing beauty in the power and invention of the machine age. This set him apart from a slightly earlier generation of artists, poets, and writers like Henry David Thoreau or William Wordsworth who decried the onset of industrialization and romanticized "the sublime" of unspoiled nature.

...Thy black cylindric body, golden brass and silvery steel,

Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating,

shuttling at thy sides,

Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar, now tapering in the


Thy great protruding head-light fix'd in front,

Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate


The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy smoke-stack,

Thy knitted frame, thy springs and valves, the tremulous twinkle

of thy wheels,

Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily following,

Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily careering;

Type of the modern-emblem of motion and power-pulse of

the continent...

Source | Walt Whitman, "To a Locomotive in Winter," in Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: REES WELSCH & Co., 1882.) Available in The Walt Whitman Archive,
Creator | Walt Whitman
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Walt Whitman, “"To A Locomotive in Winter" (Excerpt),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2023,

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