Walt Whitman was a visionary, a tolerant and kind man, who spoke out about injustices and did not allow himself to conform. Looking into the soul of human motivation and reaction, he purposefully chose everyday people to demonstrate his loftiest ideas. He had deep feelings about humanity's return to the earth, completing the cycle of life. The war greatly influenced his ideals, and probably was a trigger for him to create updated editions of this poem, and with each he honed the lines and the placement. In many ways, this self educated and self published author was also a book maker - taking into account everything about the physical book as well as the content. He rejected censorship and joined in with other bohemian writers of the day. I read this poem slowly with a class over a period of weeks, and we discussed a lot of the background, and how his words were influenced by the events of the day. Walt Whitman's vision and words are relevant still today.
Excerpt from section Full Of Life Now
"When you read these I that was visible am become invisible,
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)"