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A March In The Ranks, Hard-prest Analysis

Author: Poetry of Walt Whitman Type: Poetry Views: 514

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A MARCH in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown;

A route through a heavy wood, with muffled steps in the darkness;

Our army foil'd with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating;

Till after midnight glimmer upon us, the lights of a dim-lighted


We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted


'Tis a large old church at the crossing roads--'tis now an impromptu


--Entering but for a minute, I see a sight beyond all the pictures

and poems ever made:

Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and


And by one great pitchy torch, stationary, with wild red flame, and

clouds of smoke;

By these, crowds, groups of forms, vaguely I see, on the floor, some

in the pews laid down;10

At my feet more distinctly, a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of

bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen;)

I staunch the blood temporarily, (the youngster's face is white as a


Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o'er the scene, fain to absorb

it all;

Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity,

some of them dead;

Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether,

the odor of blood;

The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms of soldiers--the yard

outside also fill'd;

Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the

death-spasm sweating;

An occasional scream or cry, the doctor's shouted orders or calls;

The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the


These I resume as I chant--I see again the forms, I smell the


Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, Fall in;

But first I bend to the dying lad--his eyes open--a half-smile gives

he me;

Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,

Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,

The unknown road still marching.


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