The Wound-Dresser

Written by
Walt Whitman
Photograph
by

Mathew Brady, Union Soldier (1865)

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The Wound-Dresser

Written by
Walt Whitman

On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)

The crush’d head I dress (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away),

The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through I examine,

Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard

(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death! In mercy come quickly).

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,

I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,

Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv’d neck and side-falling head,

His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,

And has not yet look’d on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,

But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,

And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,

Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,

While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.

I am faithful, I do not give out,

The fractur’d thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,

These and more I dress with impassive hand (yet deep in my breast a fire, a burning flame).

Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,

Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,

The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,

I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,

Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,

(Many a soldier’s loving arms about this neck have cross’d and rested,

Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips).