Weekly Whitman: “Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me”

Depending on how one views the American Civil War, this year could be one of many. I always think of it as 1862, the year the war got serious. Not that “before” was any picnic, but the issues with the Peninsula Campaign and so many southern victories, forts Henry and Donelson notwithstanding, made many realize that this was going to be a long, sad, bloody war with no real predictable outcome—or so it might have seemed at the time. Walt Whitman was just as puzzled as the rest of the world.

 Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me

Year that trembled and reel’d beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough–yet the air I breathed froze me;
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken’d me;
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself;
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?


3 Responses to Weekly Whitman: “Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me”

  1. A sentiment with powerful echoes today. The greatest blessing of historical studies is the understanding that we are never alone in time or circumstance. We connect with our ancestors, feel for them, and (one hopes) learn from them.

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