‘What stays with you latest and deepest?’: PBS Series Examines the Civil War Through Poetry


“Arous’d and indignant, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless warfare,” wrote American poet Walt Whitman. “However quickly my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d myself, To take a seat by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the lifeless.”

As soon as a champion of the American Civil Battle, Whitman’s observations of the wounded and dying on each side of the battle irrevocably altered his understanding of his nation.

Now in its third season, PBS’s “Poetry in America,” which facilities on one iconic American poem every episode, examines “The Wound-Dresser,” written by the famed poet.

In 25-minute, bite-sized episodes, “Poetry in America” explores how our nation’s historical past intersects with and influences the written phrase and our understanding of what it means to be an American.

Whitman, who spent the latter half of the Civil Battle as an unpaid nurse, was drawn to hospitals after his youthful brother, George, was wounded on the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862.

Moved by his brother’s damage—shrapnel to the chin—the kindly poet spent a whole bunch of hours visiting wounded Union troopers recuperating in Washington, D.C., hospitals throughout the warfare.

Whitman was, as creator Milton Bagby writes, “extra middle-aged sweet striper than medical nurse,” but his visits remained a shiny spot for these convalescing. From his personal meager earnings, Whitman bought sweet, tobacco, fruit, and magazines for the boys and helped to jot down letters dwelling from injured troopers.

His poetry, later revealed within the volumes Drum Faucets and Specimen Days, cemented his superstar standing and gave voice to the deep wound that was the American Civil Battle that left a younger nation reeling for many years.

Eliza New hosts, and is joined by playwright Tony Kushner, composer Matthew Aucoin, and historian Drew Faust amongst others to debate how the trauma of the Civil Battle formed American historical past.

Airing weekly on PBS, the collection is on the market to stream at no cost on PoetryInAmerica.org.

Learn the complete poem under:

1

An outdated man bending I come amongst new faces,

Years trying backward resuming in reply to youngsters,

Come inform us outdated man, as from younger males and maidens that love me,

(Arous’d and indignant, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless warfare,

However quickly my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d myself,

To take a seat by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the lifeless;)

Years therefore of those scenes, of those livid passions, these possibilities,

Of unsurpass’d heroes, (was one aspect so courageous? the opposite was equally courageous;)

Now be witness once more, paint the mightiest armies of earth,

Of these armies so speedy so wondrous what noticed you to inform us?

What stays with you newest and deepest? of curious panics,

Of hard-fought engagements or sieges super what deepest stays?

2

O maidens and younger males I like and that love me,

What you ask of my days these the strangest and sudden your speaking remembers,

Soldier alert I arrive after a protracted march cowl’d with sweat and dirt,

Within the nick of time I come, plunge within the struggle, loudly shout within the rush of profitable cost,

Enter the captur’d works—but lo, like a swift operating river they fade,

Move and are gone they fade—I dwell not on troopers’ perils or troopers’ joys,

(Each I bear in mind nicely—lots of the hardships, few the thrill, but I used to be content material.)

However in silence, in goals’ projections,

Whereas the world of achieve and look and mirth goes on,

So quickly what’s over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off the sand,

With hinged knees returning I enter the doorways, (whereas for you up there,

Whoever you might be, observe with out noise and be of sturdy coronary heart.)

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,

Straight and swift to my wounded I am going,

The place they lie on the bottom after the battle introduced in,

The place their priceless blood reddens the grass, the bottom,

Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or underneath the roof’d hospital,

To the lengthy rows of cots up and down both sides I return,

To every and all one after one other I draw close to, not one do I miss,

An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,

Quickly to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d once more.

I onward go, I cease,

With hinged knees and regular hand to decorate wounds,

I’m agency with every, the pangs are sharp but unavoidable,

One turns to me his interesting eyes—poor boy! I by no means knew you,

But I believe I couldn’t refuse this second to die for you, if that will prevent.

3

On, on I am going, (open doorways of time! open hospital doorways!)

The crush’d head I gown, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)

The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet by means of and thru I study,

Arduous the respiratory rattles, fairly glazed already the attention, but life struggles arduous,

(Come candy demise! be persuaded O lovely demise!

In mercy come shortly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,

I undo the clotted lint, take away the slough, wash off the matter and blood,

Again on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and aspect falling head,

His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,

And has not but look’d on it.

I gown a wound within the aspect, deep, deep,

However a day or two extra, for see the body all wasted and sinking,

And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I gown the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,

Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,

Whereas the attendant stands behind apart me holding the tray and pail.

I’m trustworthy, I don’t give out,

The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound within the stomach,

These and extra I gown with emotionless hand, (but deep in my breast a fireplace, a burning flame.)

4

Thus in silence in goals’ projections,

Returning, resuming, I thread my method by means of the hospitals,

The damage and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,

I sit by the stressed all of the darkish night time, some are so younger,

Some endure a lot, I recall the expertise candy and unhappy,

(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,

Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

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