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About this Item

Title: A Twilight Song

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: May 1890

Publication information: Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine 40 (May 1890): 27.

Source: Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00002

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, April Lambert, Heather Morton, Leslie Ianno, Ramon Guerra, and Susan Belasco




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A TWILIGHT SONG1

For unknown buried soldiers, North and South.


AS I sit in twilight, late, alone, by the flickering oak-flame,
Musing on long-past war scenes—of the countless buried unknown soldiers,
Of the vacant names, as unindented air's and sea's—the unreturn'd,
The brief truce after battle, with grim burial-squads, and the deep-filled trenches
Of gather'd dead from all America, North, South, East, West, whence they came up,
From wooded Maine, New England's farms, from fertile Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio,
From the measureless West, Virginia, the South, the Carolinas, Texas;
(Even here in my room-shadows and half-lights, in the noiseless, flickering flames,
Again I see the stalwart ranks on-filing, rising—I hear the rhythmic tramp of the armies);
You million unwrit names, all, all—you dark bequest from all the war,
A special verse for you—a flash of duty long neglected—your mystic roll strangely gath-
er'd here,
Each name recall'd by me from out the darkness and death's ashes,
Henceforth to be, deep, deep, within my heart, recording, for many a future year,
Your mystic roll entire of unknown names, or North or South,
Embalm'd with love in this twilight song.
Walt Whitman.

Notes:

1. Published with the subtitle "For unknown buried soldiers, North and South." Revised and reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891). [back]


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