Weekly Whitman: “By the Bivouac’s Fearful Flame”

By the bivouac’s fitful flame,
A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow—but first I note,
The tents of the sleeping army, the fields’ and woods’ dim outline,
The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving,
The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily watching me,)
While wind in procession thoughts, O tender and wondrous thoughts,
Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that are far away;
A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground,
By the bivouac’s fitful flame.

Detail from “A Bivouac Fire on the Potomac,” Harper’s Weekly, Dec. 21, 1861, p. 808-809

About Meg Groeling

CW Historian
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