A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim

by Walt Whitman
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The point of Walt Whitman's poem 'A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim' is lack of hope. The lack of hope is for mankind and for peace. The poem has a slightly despairing tone about it, from the very first line 'the daybreak gray and dim.' Often, poems written about the dawn or sunrise have a joyous exultant quality about them, but not this one. We begin to understand that this poem might be about more sombre issues. The words 'sleepless, hospital, stretchers and in particular 'untended' add to the hopeless atmosphere in the next few lines. We may wonder whether the patients (who are probably injured soldiers) have been cast outside as they were taking up valuable space that was needed for those with a more hopeful outcome - whereas the prognosis for the three was grim. Someone may have decided they were unlikely to make it and there was little hope for them. the reference to Christ at the end is strangely hopeless too -many spiritual poets find some kind of uplifting note in Christ's power to save, but in this case all that comes over is that mankind is repeating the same mistakes and not listening but killing Love over and over.

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What critics tend to say is that this poem is about how people do not and have not learned from their mistakes.  Specifically, it is about how we keep having wars and keep killing each other.

You can see that in the three faces that he looks at -- all dead.  One is an old man, one is a young boy.  The third, he says, is Jesus Christ.  Talking about the third man, he says "and here again he lies."  He seems to be saying that in all the years since Jesus's time, we have not learned to be humane to each other.

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