Walt Whitman

I Heard the Mother of All

PENSIVE, on her dead gazing, I heard the Mother of All, Desperate, on the torn bodies, on the forms covering the battle-fields gazing; (As the last gun ceased—but the scent of the powder-smoke linger’d;) As she call’d to her earth with mournful voice while she stalk’d: Absorb them well, O my earth, she cried—I charge you, lose not my sons! lose not an atom; And you streams, absorb them well, taking their dear blood; And you local spots, and you airs that swim above lightly, And all you essences of soil and growth—and you, my rivers’ depths; And you, mountain sides—and the woods where my dear children’s blood, trickling, redden’d; And you trees, down in your roots, to bequeath to all future trees, My dead absorb—my young men’s beautiful bodies absorb—and their precious, precious, precious blood; Which holding in trust for me, faithfully back again give me, many a year hence, In unseen essence and odor of surface and grass, centuries hence; In blowing airs from the fields, back again give me my darlings—give my immortal heroes; Exhale me them centuries hence—breathe me their breath—let not an atom be lost; O years and graves! O air and soil! O my dead, an aroma sweet! Exhale them perennial, sweet death, years, centuries hence.

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