Union and Confederate soldiers spent three winters in service during the years 1861-65. Whether it was winter merriment in New Orleans or, more commonly, bivouacked among the snowdrifts of the South, it was cold and strange for men who had not seen their families or celebrated the holidays at home in a long time. Walt Whitman tried to cheer his patients in Washington’s hospitals with small gifts and winter apples, but it was a cold, lonely time for most. “Sounds of the Winter” was published in the “2nd Annex: Good-Bye My Fancy” section in Walt Whitman’s last edition of Leaves of Grass (1891-1892). Whitman worked on Leaves of Grass throughout his adult life, continually editing, adding, and taking away poems and bits of poems. His war experiences are reflected in later editions.
Sounds of Winter
Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains-many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train-from nearer field, barn, house
The whispering air-even the mute crops, garner’d apples, corn,
Children’s and women’s tones-rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
And old man’s garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.
While you read this poem, crank up some sounds of winter at this link and give some thoughts to our military, no matter where they are spending this winter.