As Fredson Bowers discovered, in 1858 or early 1859 Walt Whitman completed under the title "Live Oak, with Moss" a twelve-poem sequence that traces the course of a man's love for another man, their happiness together, and the aftermath of their relationship-a brave, albeit unpublished, homosexual manifesto. In Robert K. Martin's The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman Alan Helms printed what he called "Live Oak with Moss" (without the comma)-not the original sequence Bowers had printed in 1953 but the twelve poems as shuffled and revised for "Calamus" (1860). Having reconstituted the original order with revised texts, Helms read a narrative of homophobic oppression, "a deeply trouble sequence, mostly about the confusion, pain, and fear that surround the fact of men loving men." The distinction between a correct text and an incorrect text of this Whitman sequence is anything but academic. "Live Oak, with Moss" matters because readers worldwide look to Whitman for guidance in living a sane and hopeful life. Given the immense difficulties that gay teenagers sometimes face in coming to terms with their sexuality, it would be tragic if even one young person found the shame-drenched asnwer in the no-comma "Live Oak, with Moss" instead of finding the frank, resolute answer in "Live Oak, with Moss" that Whitman wrote and that Bowers first printed.
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