Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass
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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;         5
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;  15
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,  25
And buried him where he fell. 


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