Voice from the Past: 1861

ARM’D year! year of the struggle!
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you,
terrible year!
Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisp-
ing cadenzas piano;
But as a strong man, erect, clothed in blue clothes,
advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands —
with a knife in the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud — your sonorous voice
ringing across the continent;
Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you, as one of the
workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan;
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois
and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and de-
scending the Alleghanies;
Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on
deck along the Ohio river;
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers,
or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed
in blue, bearing weapons, robust year;
Heard your determin’d voice, launch’d forth again and
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round
lipp’d cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.

– Walt Whitman –

Source: Walt Whitman, “1861,” in Drum Taps (New York, 1865).

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