Today marks the anniversary of the birth of poet Walt Whitman, who during the American Civil War served as a nurse in military hospitals. Here, an excerpt from his poem “The Wound-Dresser” in the book of his wartime poetry, Drum Taps:
I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep;
But a day or two more—for see, the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.
I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me, holding the tray and pail.
I am faithful, I do not give out;
The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
These and more I dress with impassive hand—(yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame.)