Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day

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"Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day" is a poem by Walt Whitman dedicated to Abraham Lincoln. The poem was written on April 19, 1865, shortly after Lincoln's assassination. Whitman went on to write additional poetry about Lincoln: "O Captain! My Captain!", "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", and "This Dust Was Once the Man."[1]

Background[edit]

An image depicting Lincoln's funeral ceremonies in New York City

Whitman was inspired to write the poem by real life experiences. He was home in Brooklyn on a break from his job with the Department of the Interior when he heard of Lincoln's assassination. He recalled that, although breakfast was served, the family did not eat and "not a word was spoken that day". He heard a similar story that troops under William Tecumseh Sherman on their homeward march were loud and jubilant until they heard the news about Lincoln, which inspired them into silence.[2]

Although the poem is narrated as a witness of Lincoln lying in state, Whitman himself likely never observed it personally. The original subtitle of the poem included "April 19", the date of Lincoln's coffin was on display in the East Wing of the White House, but Whitman did not leave Brooklyn for Washington, D. C. until April 24. He therefore also missed the ceremonies in New York when Lincoln's body was there on April 24.[3]

Full text[edit]

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
truly.

As they invault the coffin there;
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tanner Lecture by Helen Vendler
  2. ^ Reynolds, David S. Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography. New York: Vintage Books, 1995: 444. ISBN 0-679-76709-6
  3. ^ Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. University of California Press, 1999: 289. ISBN 0-520-22687-9
  4. ^ full text from site maintained by Dr. Peter Batke of Princeton University