Monday, April 30, 2007


We come back to Whitman for the final offering for this year's National Poetry Month with an excerpt from "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryards Bloom'd," his great elegy for Abraham Lincoln and the dead of the Civil War. With 100 American soldiers and countless Iraqis killed just in the last month, we should ponder Whitman's words carefully:

And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierced with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer'd not,
The living remain'd and suffer'd, the mother suffer'd,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer'd,
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.

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