Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drum-Taps

150 years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  Walt Whitman responded to the tragedy in a way that many Americans remember each year--though not necessarily on April 15th. Rather, when they catch their first scent of lilac in the spring air.

"When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd" was added to Whitman's Drum-Taps along with "O Captain! my Captain!" and other poems as a "sequel." The rest of the book had already been readied for press, so the additional poems were printed as pamphlet bound in the end of the book. Drum-Taps is a memorial to the Civil War, and the sequel an added memorial to Lincoln. The poem turned out to be one of Whitman's most popular. The opening stanzas evoke loss while celebrating the regeneration of spring.
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd... and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
To read it in its original, ask for Val 816W59 P8.

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