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THE DRESSER.

1

1AN old man bending, I come, among new faces,
Years looking backward, resuming, in answer to chil-
dren,
Come tell us, old man, as from young men and maidens
that love me;
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions,
these chances,
Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the
other was equally brave;)
Now be witness again—paint the mightiest armies of
earth;
Of those armies so rapid, so wondrous, what saw you to
tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious
panics,
Of hard-fought engagements, or sieges tremendous,
what deepest remains?


2

2O maidens and young men I love, and that love me,
What you ask of my days, those the strangest and
sudden your talking recalls;
Soldier alert I arrive, after a long march, cover'd with
sweat and dust;
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly
shout in the rush of successful charge;
Enter the captur'd works….yet lo! like a swift
running river, they fade;
Pass and are gone, they fade—I dwell not on soldiers'
perils or soldiers' joys;
(Both I remember well—many the hardships, few the
joys, yet I was content.)

3But in silence, in dreams' projections,
While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes
on,


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So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the
imprints off the sand,
In nature's reverie sad, with hinged knees returning, I
enter the doors—(while for you up there,
Whoever you are, follow me without noise, and be of
strong heart.)


3

4Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground, after the battle brought
in;
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the
ground;
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof'd
hospital;
To the long rows of cots, up and down, each side, I
return;
To each and all, one after another, I draw near—not
one do I miss;
An attendant follows, holding a tray—he carries a refuse
pail,
Soon to be fill'd with clotted rags and blood, emptied,
and fill'd again.

5I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand, to dress wounds;
I am firm with each—the pangs are sharp, yet unavoid-
able;
One turns to me his appealing eyes—(poor boy! I
never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for
you, if that would save you.)


4

6On, on I go—(open, doors of time! open, hospital
doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand, tear not
the bandage away;)
The neck of the cavalry-man, with the bullet through
and through, I examine;


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Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the
eye, yet life struggles hard;
(Come, sweet death! be persuaded, O beautiful death!
In mercy come quickly.)

7From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the
matter and blood;
Back on his pillow the soldier bends, with curv'd neck,
and side-falling head;
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, (he dares not look
on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.)

8I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep;
But a day or two more—for see, the frame all wasted
already, and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

9I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bul-
let wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene,
so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding
the tray and pail.

10I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdo-
men;
These and more I dress with impassive hand—(yet deep
in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)


5

11Thus in silence, in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the
hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night—some are so
young;
Some suffer so much—I recall the experience sweet and
sad;
(Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have
cross'd and rested,
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)


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