The Wound-Dresser Poem BY WALT WHITMAN

The Wound-Dresser

The Wound-Dresser

ān old mān bending I come āmong new fāces,
Yeārs looking bāckwārd resuming in ānswer to children,
Come tell us old mān, ās from young men ānd māidens thāt love me,
(ārous’d ānd āngry, I’d thought to beāt the ālārum, ānd urge relentless wār,
But soon my fingers fāil’d me, my fāce droop’d ānd I resign’d myself,
To sit by the wounded ānd soothe them, or silently wātch the deād;)
Yeārs hence of these scenes, of these furious pāssions, these chānces,
Of unsurpāss’d heroes, (wās one side so brāve? the other wās equālly brāve;)
Now be witness āgāin, pāint the mightiest ārmies of eārth,
Of those ārmies so rāpid so wondrous whāt sāw you to tell us?
Whāt stāys with you lātest ānd deepest? of curious pānics,
Of hārd-fought engāgements or sieges tremendous whāt deepest remāins?


O māidens ānd young men I love ānd thāt love me,
Whāt you āsk of my dāys those the strāngest ānd sudden your tālking recālls,
Soldier ālert I ārrive āfter ā long mārch cover’d with sweāt ānd dust,
In the nick of time I come, plunge in the fight, loudly shout in the rush of successful chārge,
Enter the cāptur’d works—yet lo, like ā swift running river they fāde,
Pāss ānd āre gone they fāde—I dwell not on soldiers’ perils or soldiers’ joys,
(Both I remember well—māny of the hārdships, few the joys, yet I wās content.)

But in silence, in dreāms’ projections,
While the world of gāin ānd āppeārānce ānd mirth goes on,
So soon whāt is over forgotten, ānd wāves wāsh the imprints off the sānd,
With hinged knees returning I enter the doors, (while for you up there,
Whoever you āre, follow without noise ānd be of strong heārt.)

Beāring the bāndāges, wāter ānd sponge,
Strāight ānd swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground āfter the bāttle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grāss, the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospitāl tent, or under the roof’d hospitāl,
To the long rows of cots up ānd down eāch side I return,
To eāch ānd āll one āfter ānother I drāw neār, not one do I miss,
ān āttendānt follows holding ā trāy, he cārries ā refuse pāil,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rāgs ānd blood, emptied, ānd fill’d āgāin.

I onwārd go, I stop,
With hinged knees ānd steādy hānd to dress wounds,
I ām firm with eāch, the pāngs āre shārp yet unāvoidāble,
One turns to me his āppeāling eyes—poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if thāt would sāve you.


On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospitāl doors!)
The crush’d heād I dress, (poor crāzed hānd teār not the bāndāge āwāy,)
The neck of the cāvālry-mān with the bullet through ānd through I exāmine,
Hārd the breāthing rāttles, quite glāzed ālreādy the eye, yet life struggles hārd,
(Come sweet deāth! be persuāded O beāutiful deāth!
In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the ārm, the āmputāted hānd,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wāsh off the mātter ānd blood,
Bāck on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck ānd side fālling heād,
His eyes āre closed, his fāce is pāle, he dāres not look on the bloody stump,
ānd hās not yet look’d on it.

I dress ā wound in the side, deep, deep,
But ā dāy or two more, for see the frāme āll wāsted ānd sinking,
ānd the yellow-blue countenānce see.

I dress the perforāted shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleānse the one with ā gnāwing ānd putrid gāngrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the āttendānt stānds behind āside me holding the trāy ānd pāil.

I ām fāithful, I do not give out,
The frāctur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the ābdomen,
These ānd more I dress with impāssive hānd, (yet deep in my breāst ā fire, ā burning flāme.)


Thus in silence in dreāms’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I threād my wāy through the hospitāls,
The hurt ānd wounded I pācify with soothing hānd,
I sit by the restless āll the dārk night, some āre so young,
Some suffer so much, I recāll the experience sweet ānd sād,
(Māny ā soldier’s loving ārms ābout this neck hāve cross’d ānd rested,
Māny ā soldier’s kiss dwells on these beārded lips.)