Drum-Taps

While children enjoy their day off of school and parents tirelessly drive across highways and the wind rises, let’s remember that some people can’t and won’t see these things in the same autumn light again. It’s not a thought meant as a guilt-trip—simply something to be aware of and something to appreciate, knowing that, though it comes at a cost, there is such a thing as bravery.

The Veteran’s Vision, by Walt Whitman

WHILE my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars
are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the mys-
tic midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just
hear, the breath of my infant,
There in the room, as I wake from sleep, this vision
presses upon me:
The engagement opens there and then, in my busy brain
unreal;
The skirmishers begin—they crawl cautiously ahead—
I hear the irregular snap! snap!
I hear the sounds of the different missiles—the short
t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle balls;
I see the shells exploding, leaving small white clouds—
I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass;
The grape, like the hum and whirr of wind through the
trees, (quick, tumultuous, now the contest rages!)
All the scenes at the batteries themselves rise in detail
before me again;
The crashing and smoking—the pride of the men in
their pieces;
The chief gunner ranges and sights his piece, and selects
a fuse of the right time;
After firing, I see him lean aside, and look eagerly off
to note the effect;
—Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging—
(the young colonel leads himself this time, with
brandish’d sword;)
I see the gaps cut by the enemy’s volleys, (quickly
fill’d up—no delay;)
I breathe the suffocating smoke—then the flat clouds
hover low, concealing all;

Now a strange lull comes for a few seconds, not a shot
fired on either side;
Then resumed, the chaos louder than ever, with eager
calls, and orders of officers;
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts
to my ears a shout of applause, (some special
success;)
And ever the sound of the cannon, far or near, (rousing,
even in dreams, a devilish exultation, and all the
old mad joy, in the depths of my soul;)
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions—
batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither;
(The falling, dying, I heed not—the wounded, dripping
and red, I heed not—some to the rear are hob-
bling;)
Grime, heat, rush—aid-de-camps galloping by, or on a
full run;
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the
rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)
And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-color’d
rockets.

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