Walt Whitman wrote a stirring poem titled “Pensive On Her Dead Grazing” within days of the surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia.

“Pensive on her dead gazing I heard the Mother of All,
Desperate on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battlefields gazing,
(As the last gun ceased, but the scent of the powder-smoke linger’d,)

As she call’d to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk’d,
Absorb them well O my earth, she cried, I charge you lose not my sons, lose not an atom,

And you streams absorb them well, taking their dear blood,
And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly
impalpable,

And all you essences of soil and growth, and you my rivers’ depths,
And you mountain sides, and the woods where my dear children’s blood trickling redden’d,
And you trees down in your roots to bequeath to all future trees,

My dead absorb of South of North – my young men’s bodies absorb, and their precious precious blood,
Which holding in trust for me faithfully back again give me many a year hence,

In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence, In blowing airs from the fields back again give me my darlings, give my immortal heroes,
Exhale me them centuries hence, breathe me their breath, let not an atom be lost,

O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet!
Exhale them perennial sweet death, years, centuries hence.”

 

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