Walt Whitman: Poems

Drum Taps: The Mother of All

Pensive, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of all,

Desperate, on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battlefields,


As she called to her earth with mournful voice while she stalked.

"Absorb them well, O my earth!" she cried--"I charge you, lose not my sons!

lose not an atom;

And you, streams, absorb them well, taking their dear blood;

And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly,

And all you essences of soil and growth--and you, O my rivers' depths;

And you mountain-sides--and the woods where my dear children's blood,

trickling, reddened;

And you trees, down in your roots, to bequeath to all future trees,

My dead absorb--my young men's beautiful bodies absorb--and their precious,

precious, precious blood;

Which, holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give me, many a year


In unseen essence and odour of surface and grass, centuries hence;

In blowing airs from the fields, back again give me my darlings--give my

immortal heroes;

Exhale me them centuries hence--breathe me their breath--let not an atom be


O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet!

Exhale them, perennial, sweet death, years, centuries hence."