The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

When late I sang sad was my voice,

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred
and smoke of war;

In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,

Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.

 

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But now I sing not war,

Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,

Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;

No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.

 

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Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping
armies?

Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,

With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and
your muskets;

How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you
march’d.

Pass—then rattle drums again,

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your
fever,

O my land’s maim’d darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage
and the crutch,

Lo, your pallid army follows.)

Walt Whitman

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10 thoughts on “The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

  1. if only “the last war” was truly the last war, forever. So sad what brutality we foist upon each other. Whitman saw the young men left bereft and ill, the army still marching behind, the more to fall tomorrow.
    A post to make me think.

    Like

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