Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

Virgil Strange I Kept On The Field



VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return'd, with a look I
shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the
ground;
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle;
Till late in the night reliev'd, to the place at last again I made my
way;
Found you in death so cold, dear comrade--found your body, son of
responding kisses, (never again on earth responding;)
Bared your face in the starlight--curious the scene--cool blew the
moderate night-wind;
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield
spreading;
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant silent
night; 10
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh--Long, long I gazed;
Then on the earth partially reclining, sat by your side, leaning my
chin in my hands;
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you, dearest
comrade--Not a tear, not a word;
Vigil of silence, love and death--vigil for you my son and my
soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole;
Vigil final for you, brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your
death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living--I think we shall
surely meet again;)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn
appear'd,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head, and
carefully under feet; 20
And there and then, and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his
grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited;
Ending my vigil strange with that--vigil of night and battlefield
dim;
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth
responding;)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain--vigil I never forget, how as day
brighten'd,
I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well in his
blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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