When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd is an elegy
In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead.-History:The Greek term elegeia originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter, including epitaphs for tombs...

 written by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 in 1865
1865 in literature
The year 1865 in literature involved some significant new books.-Events:* June 9 - Charles Dickens is involved in the Staplehurst rail crash....

. Admired as one of Whitman's greatest poems, "Lilacs" has influenced many other works in literature and the arts.

The other poems in Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman . Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death...

 Book XXII
– "O Captain! My Captain!
O Captain! My Captain!
"O Captain! My Captain!" is an extended metaphor poem written in 1865 by Walt Whitman, concerning the death of American president Abraham Lincoln.-Analysis:...

", "Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day
Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day
"Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day" is a poem by Walt Whitman dedicated to Abraham Lincoln.The poem was written on April 19, 1865, shortly after Lincoln's assassination...

", and the brief "This Dust Was Once the Man" – also refer to Lincoln's death.


The second line of the poem "And the great star early droop'd ..." establishes the allusion to Lincoln. The blooming of the lilac
Syringa is a genus of about 20–25 species of flowering woody plants in the olive family , native to woodland and scrub from southeastern Europe to eastern Asia, and widely and commonly cultivated in temperate areas elsewhere....

s in April, the same month in which Lincoln was assassinated, serves as Whitman's yearly reminder of Lincoln's death. This star is historically the planet Venus
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

, which was low in the sky at the time Whitman wrote his poem.


In 1936 the German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 Karl Amadeus Hartmann
Karl Amadeus Hartmann
Karl Amadeus Hartmann was a German composer. Some have lauded him as the greatest German symphonist of the 20th century, although he is now largely overlooked, particularly in English-speaking countries.-Life:...

 used parts of "Lilacs" in an intended Cantata for soprano and orchestra. It ultimately formed the second movement of his designated First Symphony
Symphony No.1 (Hartmann)
The First Symphony of the German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann was completed in 1955.Subtitled Versuch eines Requiem , the piece began life in 1936 as a cantata for alto solo and orchestra, setting translations of poetry by Walt Whitman...


Conductor Robert Shaw
Robert Shaw (conductor)
Robert Shaw was an American conductor most famous for his work with his namesake Chorale, with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Shaw received 14 Grammy awards, four ASCAP awards for service to contemporary music, the first Guggenheim Fellowship...

 commissioned another German, Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

, during his wartime exile in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, to set the text of "Lilacs" to music in his Requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 for those we love
(1946). There is also a cantata
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir....

 by Roger Sessions
Roger Sessions
Roger Huntington Sessions was an American composer, critic, and teacher of music.-Life:Sessions was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. His mother, Ruth Huntington Sessions, was a direct descendent of Samuel Huntington, a signer of...

 setting this poem, written in 1971. David Conte extracted text from the poem for use in his "Invocation & Dance" (1989). George Crumb
George Crumb
George Crumb is an American composer of contemporary classical music. He is noted as an explorer of unusual timbres, alternative forms of notation, and extended instrumental and vocal techniques. Examples include seagull effect for the cello , metallic vibrato for the piano George Crumb (born...

 composed Apparition in 1979, using the text of "Lilacs", mostly from the "Death Carol" section of the poem. Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

 uses the third stanza in his musical Street Scene
Street Scene (opera)
Street Scene is a Broadway musical or, more precisely, an "American opera" by Kurt Weill , Langston Hughes , and Elmer Rice...


Other Literature

  • T. S. Eliot
    T. S. Eliot
    Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

    's "The Waste Land
    The Waste Land
    The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

    " alludes to "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" multiple times.
  • Peter De Vries
    Peter De Vries
    Peter De Vries was an American editor and novelist known for his satiric wit. He has been described by the philosopher Daniel Dennett as "probably the funniest writer on religion ever"-Biography:...

    ' novel The Blood of the Lamb uses motivs from Whitman's poem, including the brown thrush with its "unendurable" song, and the association of lilacs with death. The main character's daughter is also named Carol, possibly an allusion to the brown-grey thrush's "Carol of Death."
  • The popularity of the poem has often made it subject to parody and satire.

Further reading

  • Max Cavitch, American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Includes a chapter on the poem. ISBN 081664893X

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.