“My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion.”

That the poet Walt Whitman was a rebel who celebrated democracy, nature, love and friendship is well known.  What isn’t well known is that Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, felt inspired by Whitman. Let’s think about that. Could it be that poetry played a role in igniting World War IYes, says the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1980.  Milosz notes that Whitman was popular among Europeans in the late 19th century, which is how an American poet contributed to the outbreak of World War I.

Whitman, Walt. “Song of the Open Road.” Leaves of Grass. Doubleday, 1926, p. 131.

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