Walt Whitman: Poems

Drum Taps: Vigil on the Field

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


Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield


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


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


I rose from the chill ground, and folded my soldier well in his blanket,

And buried him where he fell.