Study Guide

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd Admiration

By Walt Whitman


We can't forget whom this poem is really for. Without the speaker's admiration for the one and only Abe Lincoln, we may never have even had the poem to begin with. Not only is he an awesome vampire hunter, but he's really the star of this whole poem. That "great star disappear'd" is the driving force of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." And with the symbolism of the fallen western star, we certainly feel the speaker's admiration for arguably the greatest leader of American history.

Questions About Admiration

  1. How does the theme of admiration relate to the speaker's grieving and perspective on death? Would the poem have sounded any different if the speaker didn't admire Lincoln so much?
  2. What's the significance of that fallen western star and the imagery of it "drooping" to the speaker's side?
  3. How do we know that the speaker admires the overall American spirit as well as Lincoln's leadership? Are there any sections that really drive this admiration home?
  4. Does the speaker's voice elevate the sense of admiration he feels for Lincoln's influence? If the poem had been written in third-person rather than first, would the theme of admiration still have been so profound?

Chew on This

Without the speaker's admiration of Lincoln, Whitman's poem would have never been written. Abe's just the dreamiest.

Back up a minute, stretch. It's not just the speaker's admiration of Lincoln that drives the poem, but also his admiration of the enduring American spirit despite difficult times.

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