Weekly Whitman: Eighteen Sixty-One

This is the second piece of poetry in Whitman’s collection Drum Taps which was inspired by his Civil War experiences.

Eighteen Sixty-One

Arm’d year—year of the struggle,
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year,
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas
piano,
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing,
carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in
the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the
continent,
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, the
dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and
Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the
Alleghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along the
Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at
Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin’d voice launch’d forth again and again,
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp’d cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?
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