Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field. by Walt Whitman
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.