Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
The forest-field of Shiloh—
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
Around the church of Shiloh—
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
And natural prayer
Of dying foemen mingled there—
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve—
Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
And all is hushed at Shiloh.
Herman Melville – 1862
As we hear so much these days about the death of one president, I am reminded of Walt Whitman’s reflections on the death of another.
HUSH’D be the camps to-day;
And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;
And each with musing soul retire, to celebrate,
Our dear commander’s death.
No more for him life’s stormy conflicts;
Nor victory, nor defeat–no more time’s dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.
But sing, poet, in our name;
Sing of the love we bore him–because you, dweller in camps, know it
As they invault the coffin there;
Sing–as they close the doors of earth upon him–one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.