Today, many critics consider Walt Whitman (1819–1892) the quintessential American poet. What makes Whitman so quintessentially American has to do with both the form and the subject of his poetry. On the level of form, he abandoned the tradition of restrictive meter to pioneer the use of long poetic lines. Though influenced by biblical verse, Whitman’s sprawling lines gave voice to the unbridled ambition of America itself. And indeed, America is arguably the subject that organizes all of Whitman’s poetry, preoccupied as it is with democracy, nature, and brotherhood—all of which Whitman saw as central to the American national spirit. Even so, contemporary critics initially gave Whitman’s poetry a lukewarm reception. The most laudatory responses to the first edition of Leaves of Grass all came from Whitman himself, who published several anonymous reviews of his own work. Other critics, by contrast, disdained his break with traditional meter, and they treated his frank references to sex with hostility. With time, however, broader-minded critics came to agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s early assessment of Whitman’s work as a distinctly American poetry. As Ezra Pound put it in the early twentieth century, Whitman is “America’s poet. . . . He is America.”