True, although some other 19th-century poets did. Lord Byron, for example, trashes a number of his famous contemporaries in the “Dedication” of Don Juan, including Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,
But like a hawk encumber’d with his hood,
Explaining Metaphysics to the nation—
I wish he would explain his Explanation.
Actually, if you’re looking for a 19th-century predecessor of modern rappers, Byron might be a better bet than Whitman—especially in terms of public persona. He was rich, famous, cocky, and wild: the biggest celebrity and the most notorious seducer of his age. (Then again, he was a silver-spoon aristocrat, not a hustler.)
Franco chooses to quote from the version of “Song of Myself” that appears in the original, 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, rather than the later, revised version, which begins:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself…
Some readers and critics consider the original edition of Leaves of Grass more natural, “spontaneous,” and representative of the poet’s vision. Others prefer the final, “deathbed” edition (there were many in between; Whitman was a tireless reviser).
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