Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Walt Whitman: In Memoriam-- the defeated

I was surprised to read this poem by Walt Whitman.


With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only,  I play marches for conquer'd and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.

I beat and point for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

Vivas to those who have fail'd!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!

And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

-- Walt Whitman--
"Song of Myself"  from Leaves of Grass

These are the forgotten ones, the ones who were defeated, those who, if they were remembered, would be remembered as failures.  I don't think I've ever encountered another poem that remembered  those who were defeated.


  1. Very interesting, Fred. Whitman's perspective given his CW involvement, of course, gave him many opportunities to see a lot of loss, sadness, and the horrors rather than glories of war. Thanks for sharing the excerpt. I think (for me anyway) Whitman is best read and considered in excerpts; I do not have the patience for long encounters with Whitman.

    1. Tim,

      Yes, being a medical orderly during the CW would be a horrifying experience.

      I feel the same way about Whitman. His long shopping lists quickly result in a loss of interest.

  2. There's Akins of fascination about his work that is numbing or hypnotic; as if conversing with an overly intoxicated person at a party... Interesting in a P.T. Barnum sort of way...

    1. Mudpuddle,

      "Akins of fascination" I'm not clear here about what you mean.

    2. Fred: we had the kitchen remodeled. Formaldehyde drove us out of the house. We're. In a motel. We just have an iPad to work on. Grrr.. And it has a mind of its own... Read "a kind" instead of Akins. Sorry

    3. Mudpuddle,

      Hope you can get back in your home soon. I understand about the iPad problems--I have a tablet that has a tiny keyboard...

      Yes, he does go on and on--possibly inducing a trance-like state in his readers. He has this fascination with lists which I don't share.