Walt Whitman’s Birthday

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.)

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