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The Wound-Dresser.

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.



AN old man bending I come among new faces, Years looking backward resuming in answer to children, Come tell us old man, as from young men and maidens that love  
(Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge  
 relentless war,
But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resign'd  
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the  
Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these  
  [ begin page 242 ]ppp.01663.248.jpg 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  


O 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  
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  
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.)
But in silence, in dreams' projections, While the world of gain and appearance and mirth goes on, So soon what is over forgotten, and waves wash the imprints off  
 the sand,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up  
Whoever you are, follow without noise and be of strong heart.)
Bearing 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  
I onward go, I stop, With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds, I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,   [ begin page 243 ]ppp.01663.249.jpg One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew  
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that  
 would save you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!) The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage  
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through  
 I examine,
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.)
From 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.
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep, But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking, And the yellow-blue countenance see. I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound, Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sicken- 
 ing, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and  
I am faithful, I do not give out, The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen, These and more I dress with impassive hand, (yet deep in my  
 breast a fire, a burning flame.)


Thus 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,   [ begin page 244 ]ppp.01663.250.jpg Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad, (Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have cross'd and  
Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)

Part of the cluster DRUM-TAPS.

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