To Walt Whitman, The Man [Poem]

James SchminckeUncategorized

— John James Piatt
Washington, May, MDCCCLXIII

Homeward, last midnight, in the car we met,
While the long street streamed by us in the dark
With scattered lights in blurs of misty rain;
Then, while you spoke to me of hospitals
That know your visits, and of wounded men
(From those dread battles yonder in the South)
Who keep the memory of your form and feel
A light forerun your face where’er it comes,
In places hushed with fever, thrilled with pain,
I thought of Charity, and self-communed:
“Not only a slight girl, as poets dream,
With gentle footsteps stealing forth alone,
Veiling her hand from her soft timid eyes
Lest they should see her self-forgetful alms,
Or moving, lamp in hand, through glimmering wards
With her nun’s coif or nurse’s sacred garb:
Not only this,—but oft a sun-burnt man,
Grey-garmented, grey-bearded, gigantesque,
Walking the highway with a cheerful stride,
And, like that Good Samaritan (rather say
(This Good American!), forgetting not
To lift the hurt one as a little child
And make the weakest strong with manly cheer,
On Red Cross errands of Good-Comradeship.”

Published in The Cosmopolitan (November 1892)