Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night

Original Text: 
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891-92): 238. PS 3201 1891 Robarts Library.
1Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
2When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
3One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
4One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,
5Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
6Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,
7Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
8Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
9Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
10Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
11But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
12Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
13Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade -- not a tear, not a word,
14Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
15As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
16Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
17I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
18Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear'd,
19My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop'd well his form,
20Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
21And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
22Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
23Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
24Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten'd,
25I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
26And buried him where he fell.
Publication Start Year: 
1865
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: