Context: Whitman, who dedicated himself to caring for the wounded during the Civil War, writes of the death of one whom he calls comrade and son, who falls in battle, gives his friend an unforgettable look, and raises his arm to him before dying. The poet hurries on to care for other wounded men, but after the duties of the day have ended, he returns to his beloved dead friend, over whom he keeps a "vigil strange" all night. At dawn, the poet carefully wraps a blanket about the dead youth and buries him in a crude grave.
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;When you my son and my comrade dropt at my sidethat day,One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'dwith a look that I shall never forget,One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground,Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,Till late in the night reliev'd to the place at last again I made my way,Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene. . . .