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Jan 12, 2011

Up to date w/School!


So in school right now, for English class, I'm in a group where I have to read this poem and present it to the class on Tuesday! I just wanted to hear what you think this poem is all about! What it could mean? What the three faces symbolize? And what kind of tone and images are conveyed? :)

A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim - Walt Whitman
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first
just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step--and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third--a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of
beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you--I think this face is the face of the
Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

1 comment:

  1. I know a little about Whitman--I got a degree in Poetry and we studied him quite a bit. I know he was very affected by the Civil War and actually worked as an army nurse for the Union. I'd say this poem is about his time there, and the descriptions of the three wounded men could be men he took care of. I think the three different men, all of different ages, represent the fact that that every man is affected by war. The reference to Christ might have to do with sacrifice--every soldier depicted in the poem sacrifices his life just as Jesus did. Maybe even that Jesus' sacrifice is alive in all people who sacrifice themselves for a cause they believe in (I didn't think that Whitman was very religious but the reference to Christ is pretty clear!). I know Whitman grieved very deeply for the soldiers he saw suffering, and this is really a sympathetic poem, I think.

    But, poetry is so subjective. That's a great thing about poetry. Your reading of the poem is no less valid than a professor's or a scholar's. Whitman wanted his poetry to be accessible, to break away from the stiff, formal style that was the norm at the time. Before Whitman, poets were expected to follow rules which really restricted what they could say and how they could say it. Whitman hated that, so he threw out all the rules and did his own thing (that's why what Whitman did is called "free-verse"--his style allowed him to write freely with no constrictions or arbitrary rules. That mean the could actually say exactly what he meant, which caused quite a stir back then). What you see is what you get with Whitman!

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