Weekly Whitman: “Weave in, My Hardy Life”

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

In my work on Colonel Elmer Ellsworth there is a description of the man by John Hay, future Lincoln secretary and Roosevelt Secretary of State. Hay mentions that the picture shows the physical strength and definition of Ellsworth’s upper arm. He, too, uses the expression “sinews woven like ropes.” This image has disappeared from history, apparently—no one has seen it for over a hundred years—maybe more. But this poem reminds me of all the men, strong of mind and body, who entered the Civil War at the peak or the beginning of their youth. After the war, those that returned were never the same. Surely the war was not the “great campaign” each had hoped for, but it was the one he got. And when it was over, those returning men had to attempt to create a great campaign of peace. Unfortunately, Colonel Ellsworth was not one of the ones who returned.


Weave in, weave in, my hardy life,

Weave yet a soldier strong and full for great campaigns to come,

Weave in red blood, weave sinews in like ropes, the senses, sight
weave in,

Weave lasting sure, weave day and night the weft, the warp,
incessant weave, tire not,

(We know not what the use O life, nor know the aim, the end,
nor really aught we know,

But know the work, the need goes on and shall go on, the death-
envelop’d march of peace as well as war goes on,)

For great campaigns of peace the same the wiry threads to weave,

We know not why or what, yet weave, forever weave.

2 Responses to Weekly Whitman: “Weave in, My Hardy Life”

  1. I was struck by the comment “those who returned were never the same”. It is true today. War changes people, sometimes for better, sometimes not. Thanks for this very moving post, Meg.

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