Further Research and Questions - Walt Whitman
Further Research and Questions for Reflection: Reporting on the Life and Time of Walt Whitman and Reflecting on the Poem, “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night”
- Poems that Whitman wrote during the Civil War were collected in a volume entitled, Drum Taps. Locate the Drum Taps poems and pull out lines from the poem that provide vivid descriptions of the battle fields of the war.
- Whitman referred to three U.S. presidents: Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan as “our topmost warning and shame.” Research why he held such strong feelings about the leadership of these men, and why he felt that Abraham Lincoln was such a strong president. Read Whitman’s, “O, Captain! My Captain!,” about the death of Lincoln. Respond to Whitman’s feelings and grief.
- Whitman felt that the strength of the United States was not in its leadership but in the hands of its laborers—patriotic citizens who were responsible for forging the backbone of the country. Read selections from Leaves of Grass and select passages from the poems that lauded the hard work of the common people.
- Many literary critics feel that Whitman was a man of vision. What can you find in Whitman’s writings that support this assumption? Provide examples from his work to back your own thinking.
The questions below refer to the poem, ”Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night”
- What did the dead comrade mean to the speaker of the poem? Who is the speaker? Why do you believe this to be true?
- What occurred for the speaker of the poem during the vigil with the lost comrade? What was he thinking? What was he feeling? What emotions did he go through? Why was he unable to shed a tear?
- What is the importance of keeping vigil? When did the vigil end?
- What feeling are you the reader left with after reflecting on the poem?