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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

122. Vigil 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;

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;

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.