Yet despite the reservations about Carlyle's democratic theories which he expressed in
VISTAS, Whitman, like Emerson, Fuller, and many other thinkers of the American Renaissance found
Carlyle to be the key to European Romanticism. It was in Carlyle's translations that Whitman
first encountered German literature and he shared with the English philosopher a fondness for the
Folk Movement, a love of Robert Burns and a passion for the common man. But the correspondences
go even deeper. From Carlyle's pantheon of heroes--religious founders, prophets, and poets,
Whitman gained inspiration for creating his own identity: the modern Poet-Prophet of the Self.
From SARTOR RESARTUS, whose satire Whitman reviewed as "weird, grotesque,"
but whose admixture of ecstasy and pain, real and surreal, boasting and brag, sounded a sympathetic
chord, Whitman may well have found the energy to proclaim in LEAVES OF GRASS: "I sound
my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."
Carlyle's prestige as an historian and his reputation as a social prophet and critic were unassailable in hislifetime, though since his death in 1881 critical opinion has viewed his work --especially his beliefs in authoritarian leadership--with increasing unease, particularly after the abominations of Fascism. Nevertheless, he remains admired as a prose writer of genius, who had the courage to use grand rhetoric with great abandon--reveling in exclamatory turbulence, emotional evocations, and clever coinages of words.
As Margaret Fuller had written in THE DIAL of 1841: "Where shall we find another who appeals so
forcibly, so variously to the common heart of his contemporaries?"
From THE HISTORY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
"The Bastille is besieged! on, then, all Frenchmen that have hearts in your bodies! Roar with all your throats of cartilage and metal, ye sons of liberty; stir spasmodically whatsoever of utmost faculty is in you, soul, body, or spirit, for it is the hour! Smite thou, Louis Tournay, cartwright of the Marais, old soldier of the Régiment Dauphiné, smite at that outer drawbridge chain, though fiery hail whistles around thee! Never, over nave or felloe, did thy ax strike such a stroke. Down with it, man; down with it to Orcus; let the whole accursed edifice sink thither and tyranny be swallowed up forever!"
From SARTOR RESARTUS
"Thus had the Everlasting No (das ewige nein) pealed authoritatively through all the recesses of my Being, of my ME; and then was it that my whole ME stood up, in native God-created majesty, and with emphasis recorded its Protest. Such a Protest, the most important transaction in Life, may that same Indignation and Defiance, in a psychological point of view, be fitly called. The Everlasting No had said, 'Behold thou art fatherless, outcast, and the Universe is mine' (the Devil's); to which my whole Me now made answer: 'I am not thine, but Free, and forever hate thee!'
From HEROES AND HERO-WORSHIP
"Poetry, therefore, we call musical thought. The Poet is he who thinks in that manner. At bottom, it turns still on the power of intellect; it is a man's sincerity and depth of vision that makes him a Poet. See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of Nature being everywhere music, if you can only reach it...."