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In this poem, Whitman compares life and war to a theaters play. The President and his Generals being the main characters.


Whitman explains history is a stage for heroic figures. He identifies these men as “lofty actors”.

Lofty:exalted in rank, dignity, or character; eminent

With their role on history’s stage they will forever be remembered.

He describes war as Lurid: causing horror or revulsion, and between the old and new. The old and new stand for the ways of the south and the motion for a change from the north. We saw something similar in kind in the poem America where Whitman describes the nation as “grown” and “ungrown”.

The differences were fought out on history’s stage for a long time suspenseful, enduring man’s wrath and fear.

Whitman remembers it because it is the past. And with its end came many deaths. The chaos that once was, has since subsided and America can sigh in relief. The victory is not without cost. Leaders from both sides have died in sacrifice.


Whitman acknowledges the times were extraordinary and in need for likewise men. So these men stood up for what they believed in fighting the good fight and now that the war is over Whitman is happy with the ending in History’s play.

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As one by one withdraw the lofty actors,
From that great play on historys stage eterne,
That lurid, partial act of war and peace of old and new con-
Fought out through wrath, fears, dark dismays, and many a long
All past and since, in countless graves receding, mellowing,
Victors and vanquishd Lincolns and Lees now thou with

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Man of the mighty days and equal to the days!
Thou from the prairies! tangled and many-veind and hard has
been thy part,
To admiration has it been enacted!