Saturday, August 12, 2017

August 12: A Good Place, Walt Whitman, "A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown"

It is the weekend--days when I try to set aside the worries and pressures of the week for a little while.  Breakfast with my family.  Church tonight.  Pizza for dinner.  I love the pace of these days, when I don't have to rush and the hours spread out in front of me like lawns of August dandelions.

I try to avoid newspapers and news shows, in general, on Saturdays and Sundays.  Give myself a break from politics and disasters and wars.  I'm not sticking my head in the sand.  I'm simply allowing my brain to relax a little bit.  I know that, on Monday, Donald Trump will still be President of the United States, and that he will have said something that will leave me dumbfounded or insanely angry.  I know that the threat of nuclear war will be a mushroom cloud on the horizon.

However, Saint Marty will take the next two days to pretend that the world is a good place.  A kind place.  A place that doesn't need armies and poverty has gone the way of the passenger pigeon.  A place that's safe for my kids and my kids' kids.

A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown

by:  Walt Whitman

A march in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown,
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness,
Our army foil’d with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating,
Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted building,
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted building,
’Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu hospital
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,)
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster’s face is white as a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o’er the scene fain to absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity, some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, the odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside also fill’d,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the death-spasm sweating,
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor’s shouted orders or calls,
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the torches,
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor,
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.

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