Walt Whitman Quiz

By: Nathan Chandler
Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Walt Whitman is one of America's most singular poetic voices. How much do you know about this storied poet and his talent? Find out by taking this quiz!

When was Walt Whitman born?

He was born in 1819 in New York, and he died in New Jersey at the age of 72.

In addition to being a poet, what other work did Whitman take up as part of his career?

He was a man of words. He started his career in journalism and even founded multiple newspapers, including "The Long Islander."

Why did Whitman quit school when he was 11?

Whitman's poverty-stricken family needed his help carrying the financial load. His early departure from school meant that he was largely self-educated.

Whitman's brothers were named after what?

His parents loved America and named three sons after presidents: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Andrew Jackson.

What did poet Ezra Pound say about Whitman?

Pound wrote that Whitman is "America's poet … he is America." Whitman's desire to explore the humanity and potential of his country was evident in his work.

Why did some of Whitman's poems make him somewhat notorious?

Many of the writer's best-known poems feature prominent sex. In some circles this made him an outcast of sorts.

Whitman's collection of poems in "Drum Taps" mostly focus on which subject?

As the Civil War bore down on America, Whitman was inspired to write conflict-related poems. Some of the poems relate the experiences of combat-weary soldiers.

What role did Whitman play during the Civil War?

Whitman was struck by the gruesome war and at one point served as a volunteer nurse.

In 1848, Whitman left his editing job for a new gig in which city?

His new editing position was at the newspaper in New Orleans. He was there for only a few months, but during his stay he saw the awfulness of slavery with his own eyes for the first time.

Why did Whitman move into his brother's house in 1873?

A stroke left him with physical struggles that meant he relied on family for help. Eventually he recovered and moved into his own home.

When did Whitman print the first edition of "Leaves of Grass"?

Whitman published the first edition in 1850, when he was 36 years old. He paid for the books out of his own pocket.

How many copies were printed in the first edition of "Leaves of Grass"?

There were 795 copies made during the first run. In 2014, one copy sold for more than $300,000.

What religion did Whitman embrace?

He refused to buy into the idea that one religion was "right." He took the perspective that all religions were equal.

As a volunteer nurse during the Civil War, Whitman estimated that he visited about how many patients?

He said he made at least 600 hospital visits and saw between 80,000 and 100,000 patients. At one point he remarked about the heaps of amputated limbs.

How many poems were included in the first edition of "Leaves of Grass"?

There were just 12 poems in the first edition, but those verses were enough to make famed writer Ralph Waldo Emerson very excited about Whitman's potential.

How did Whitman feel about the voting rights of blacks?

Whitman was strongly anti-slavery, but he wasn't sure about giving blacks the right to vote. He was also dismayed at the number of blacks who were climbing the political ladder.

From what perspective are most of the poems in "Leaves of Grass" presented?

In a departure from poetic norms of the time, Whitman wrote these verses from first-person perspective and spoke straight at the reader.

Whitman invented free verse poetry.

He didn't invent free verse, although he did take this form to new heights that captured the imaginations of his readers.

How many different editions of "Leaves of Grass" did Whitman create?

He revised and edited the volume six times, and each edition is very different from the others. Experts view the volumes as distinctly separate pieces of work, rather than one edited document.

Whitman was fond of which activity?

He thoroughly enjoyed swimming naked outdoors, as it made him feel more connected with nature.

In which edition of "Leaves of Grass" did the poem "Sun-Down Poem" first appear?

"Sun-Down Poem" first appeared in the second edition. In later editions, this poem was renamed "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry."

What nickname did Whitman earn during his lifetime?

He was the Bard of Democracy, a man who believed deeply in the destinies of America, and of himself.

What was "Good-Bye, My Fancy"?

"Good-Bye, My Fancy" was the writer's last book of poems.

Several of Whitman's family members suffered from what disease?

Whitman's father was an alcoholic, and his brothers drank too much, too. Whitman himself abstained from booze for much of his life.

Whitman was definitely a homosexual.

Historians have argued the finer points of this for decades, but no one knows Whitman's sexuality with any certainty, and at one point he claimed to have fathered six illegitimate children.

A poem named "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" was created as an elegy for which person?

The poem was an elegy to the assassinated Abraham Lincoln, who'd guided the country through its darkest days.

In 1862, why did Whitman set off to Fredericksburg, Virginia in a rush?

He saw a public posting of wounded soldiers and was worried that his brother had been killed in combat. He found George with only a minor wound.

How many poems were included in the final edition of "Leaves of Grass"?

Decades after beginning the project, the book's final edition featured 300 poems. The first edition had only 12.

Why did "Leaves of Grass" receive news coverage after its 1882 edition was published?

A district attorney in Boston didn't like the book's content and blocked its publication, sparking conflict in the media.

What happened after the 1882 edition was blocked from publication?

The hubbub over the apparent censorship only made readers curious. Sales exploded and Whitman became a much wealthier man.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes