“My heart gives you love,” a Walt Whitman poem for Memorial Day (1)

(1st in a series of posts on Memorial Day)
by Walt Whitman
Read by the Gadfly

THE last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

LO, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d,
(‘Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

What poems, text excerpts, film clips should we be remembering this Memorial Day weekend? Send Gadfly your suggestions. Send Gadfly your recordings.

2 thoughts on ““My heart gives you love,” a Walt Whitman poem for Memorial Day (1)

  1. Ralph Vaughan Williams set that Whitman poem and several other texts to music for SATB choir in a work called ‘Dona Nobis Pacem.’ The way he set ‘…son and father dropt together…’ is one of the many places that can bring one to tears. It is a powerful piece.

    Shifting gears for a moment — I want to thank you for your posts about the local election. I found them and your comments to people who raised issues to be balanced and informative. I have never felt so well prepared to make choices at the ballot box for local contests. As the bard wrote: thanks and thanks and ever thanks!

    A fan of Gadfly (and also of Conan the Grammarian!) — Natalie Foster

  2. Watch the Lou Reda DVDs, “World War II in HD” and “The Air War in HD.” I don’t think any other production can match these in terms of the presentation of reality, tragedy, destruction and humanity lost. The storyline wraps itself around a number of World War II veterans. When it was produced in 2009 only 10% of the 16 million who served in our military during that war were still alive. Nearly all of those featured, among them Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame who flew with the U.S. 8th Air Force over Europe as a writer for “Stars and Stripes,” have passed away since. You’ll find absolutely no glory in war if you view this series.


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