Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 30: Longings for Home

by Walt Whitman

Performer: Librivox - Jason Mills

O Magnet South! O glistening, perfumed South! My South!

O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse, and love! Good and evil! O all dear to me!

O dear to me my birth-things—All moving things, and the trees where I was born—the grains, plants, rivers;

Dear to me my own slow sluggish rivers where they flow, distant, over flats of silvery sands, or through swamps;

Dear to me the Roanoke, the Savannah, the Altamahaw, the Pedee, the Tombigbee, the Santee, the Coosa, and the Sabine;

O pensive, far away wandering, I return with my Soul to haunt their banks again;

Again in Florida I float on transparent lakes—I float on the Okeechobee—I cross the hummock land, or through pleasant openings, or dense forests;

I see the parrots in the woods—I see the papaw tree and the blossoming titi;

Again, sailing in my coaster, on deck, I coast off Georgia—I coast up the Carolinas,

I see where the live-oak is growing—I see where the yellow-pine, the scented bay-tree, the lemon and orange, the cypress, the graceful palmetto;

I pass rude sea-headlands and enter Pamlico Sound through an inlet, and dart my vision inland;

O the cotton plant! the growing fields of rice, sugar, hemp!

The cactus, guarded with thorns—the laurel-tree, with large white flowers;

The range afar—the richness and barrenness—the old woods charged with mistletoe and trailing moss,

The piney odor and the gloom—the awful natural stillness, (Here in these dense swamps the freebooter carries his gun, and the fugitive slave has his conceal'd hut;)

O the strange fascination of these half-known, half-impassable swamps, infested by reptiles, resounding with the bellow of the alligator, the sad noises of the night-owl and the wild-cat, and the whirr of the rattlesnake;

The mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing all the forenoon—singing through the moon-lit night,

The humming-bird, the wild turkey, the raccoon, the opossum;

A Tennessee corn-field—the tall, graceful, long-leav'd corn—slender, flapping, bright green with tassels—with beautiful ears, each well-sheath'd in its husk;

An Arkansas prairie—a sleeping lake, or still bayou;

O my heart! O tender and fierce pangs—I can stand them not—I will depart;

O to be a Virginian, where I grew up! O to be a Carolinian!

O longings irrepressible! O I will go back to old Tennessee, and never wander more!

    Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 30: Longings for Home

by Walt Whitman

Performer: Librivox - Jason Mills


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read or listen to the poem.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poet.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Walt Whitman's 'Longings for Home,' describes the narrator's longing for his southern homeland.


  1. Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in West Hills, New York.
  2. Zoom in and find Whitman's state of birth, New York (NY), on the map of the United States.
  3. Whitman was one of nine children. His childhood was turbulent as his parents moved frequently due to financial difficulties.
  4. Whitman started working as a law office boy when he was only 11 years old.
  5. Whitman later became a printer's devil (apprentice) at a newspaper. He later taught, founded his own newspaper, served as a nurse during the Civil War, and performed a variety of other jobs.
  6. Whitman began publishing poetry as a teenager and continued through his life, determined to be a poet.
  7. Whitman spent 33 years perfecting his well-known poetry collection, 'Leaves of Grass.'
  8. Whitman died of pleurisy in Camden, New Jersey at the age of 72.
  9. Find Whitman's state of death, New Jersey, on the map of the United States.


Activity 1: Recite Poem Information

Recite the title of the poem and the name of the poet.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Recite the Poem

Practice reciting the poem aloud.

Activity 4: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete pages 190-196 of 'Elementary Poetry 4: Advancing in Poetry.'


  1. 'Walt Whitman.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Printer's devil.' Wikipedia. n.p.