Vigil on the Field (Poem by Walter Whitman)

Famous Poem


Vigil on the Field
By Walter Whitman


VIGIL strange I kept on the field one night,
When you, my son and my comrade, dropped at my side that day.
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes returned with a look I shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reached up as you lay on the ground.
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle;
Till, late in the night relieved, 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 appeared,
My comrade I wrapped in his blanket, enveloped 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 brightened
I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

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