Poetry Out Loud: Langston Ward Recites “A March In The Ranks Hard-Prest, And The Road Unknown”


Langston Ward representing Washington. He
is a senior at Mead high school. [APPLAUSE] “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road
Unknown ” by Walt WHhitman 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. [APPLAUSE]

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