'A Sight In Camp' by Walt Whitman

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A SIGHT in camp in the day-break grey and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early, sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air, the path near by the hospital
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there, untended
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woollen blanket,
Grey and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious, I halt, and silent stand;
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest, the first,
just lift the blanket:
Who are you, elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-grey'd hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you, my dear comrade?10

Then to the second I step--And who are you, my child and darling?
Who are you, sweet boy, with cheeks yet blooming?

Then to the third--a face nor child, nor old, very calm, as of
beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man, I think I know you--I think this face of yours is the face
of the Christ himself;
Dead and divine, and brother of all, and here again he lies.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Sight In Camp: A Poem by Walt Whitman

Are you a fan of poetry that conjures up vivid images in your mind? Do you enjoy works that capture the raw emotions of a particular moment in time? If so, then you will love Walt Whitman's "A Sight In Camp."

This classic poem was first published in 1865, during the final year of the American Civil War. Whitman, a staunch supporter of the Union cause, was deeply moved by his experiences visiting wounded soldiers in army hospitals. "A Sight In Camp" is an emotional tribute to those who fought and died for their country.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in this poem, and analyze how they contribute to its overall impact.


One of the most prominent themes in "A Sight In Camp" is the cost of war. Whitman vividly describes the suffering and sacrifice of the soldiers, many of them young men who will never return home. The poem highlights the human toll of war, and the tragedy of lives cut short.

Another theme is the resilience of the human spirit. Despite the horrors they have witnessed and endured, the soldiers in the poem do not give up. They continue to fight, to care for one another, and to find moments of joy and beauty in the midst of the chaos.


Whitman's use of imagery in "A Sight In Camp" is incredibly powerful. He paints a vivid picture of a battlefield, complete with "grim-faced" soldiers and "piles of dead," as well as the quieter moments of camaraderie and compassion that exist amidst the violence.

One particularly striking image is that of the wounded soldier who sings to himself. This moment of beauty and resilience in the midst of chaos is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Another memorable image is that of the "flag that flutters in the wind." This symbol of the Union cause represents the ideal of a united, democratic America, and serves as a reminder of what the soldiers are fighting for.


Whitman's language in "A Sight In Camp" is both lyrical and raw. He uses simple, everyday words to describe the horrors of war, but also employs poetic devices like repetition and alliteration to create a musical effect.

The poem is structured around a series of short, free-verse stanzas that mirror the disjointed, unpredictable nature of war. This structure also allows for moments of stillness and reflection, such as when the wounded soldier sings to himself.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the language in "A Sight In Camp" is its emotional honesty. Whitman does not shy away from the realities of war, but also celebrates the courage and compassion of those who are fighting.


In conclusion, "A Sight In Camp" is a powerful tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in the American Civil War. Through vivid imagery, powerful language, and themes of sacrifice and resilience, Walt Whitman captures the human toll of war and the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

This poem remains relevant today, as we continue to grapple with the costs and consequences of war. It is a reminder of the importance of honoring those who have sacrificed for their country, and of striving for a world where war is no longer necessary.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Sight In Camp: A Masterpiece of Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, the father of free verse poetry, is known for his unique style of writing that breaks the traditional rules of poetry. His poem "A Sight In Camp" is a perfect example of his style, which is characterized by long lines, unconventional syntax, and a free-flowing structure. The poem is a powerful depiction of the horrors of war and the emotional toll it takes on soldiers.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a battlefield, where the speaker is witnessing the aftermath of a battle. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker describes the "piles of dead" and the "mangled limbs" scattered across the field. The imagery is graphic and unsettling, but it serves to convey the reality of war and the brutality of the battlefield.

As the poem progresses, the speaker shifts his focus to the soldiers who are still alive, but barely. He describes the wounded soldiers lying on the ground, their faces contorted in pain, and their bodies covered in blood. The speaker's description of the soldiers is both heartbreaking and powerful, as he captures the physical and emotional toll that war takes on those who fight it.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way in which Whitman portrays the soldiers as individuals, rather than just as a faceless mass. He describes their individual features, such as their hair and their eyes, and he gives them each a unique voice. This humanizes the soldiers and makes their suffering all the more poignant.

The poem also touches on the theme of death and the afterlife. The speaker describes the soldiers who have died as "sleepers," suggesting that they have moved on to a peaceful afterlife. This is a common theme in Whitman's poetry, as he often explores the idea of death as a natural part of life.

Another notable aspect of the poem is the way in which Whitman uses repetition to create a sense of rhythm and momentum. The phrase "a sight in camp" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the speaker's sense of awe and horror at what he is witnessing. This repetition also serves to unify the poem and give it a sense of coherence.

Overall, "A Sight In Camp" is a powerful and moving poem that captures the reality of war and the toll it takes on those who fight it. Whitman's unique style of writing, with its long lines and unconventional syntax, serves to emphasize the chaotic and brutal nature of the battlefield. The poem is a testament to Whitman's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the essence of the human experience.

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