This is an analysis of how the narrator, who is also a soldier, comes to terms with the deaths of two men, a father and son.

Coming to Terms With Death

by: Trisha


No matter which side is victorious in war, each side suffers an inexhaustible number of casualties. Soldiers are often pictured as strong, even apathetic about these deaths, easily continuing their struggle to win the war. However, in reality, soldiers feel the pain of their fellow comrades dying. In "Dirge for Two Veterans" by Walt Whitman, the narrator, who is also a soldier, gradually comes to terms with the tragic deaths of a father and son. Only with the comforting strength the bugles, drums, and the moon offer is he able to accept the deaths of the father and son and give them his best wishes in their next life.
The demise of a father and son lowers the narrator's spirits and causes him to lose his will to continue on with the fighting. "The last sunbeam/ Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath/ On the pavement." The end of the Sabbath indicates that the day of mourning is coming to a close and that it is time to move on and resume fighting even though the narrator's pain is as solid as pavement. Therefore, the last beam of light looks to the double grave where the sadness must be buried so that everyone can continue their lives.
Although he is well aware of the "sad procession," the narrator is not ready to move on yet. The pounding drums and resounding bugles approaching the grave strike the narrator's dejected heart. Seeing "the city streets. . . flood[ed]. . . with tears," instills the sadness in the narrator and makes the deaths more difficult for him to handle. The fact that the father and son had been fighting in the front lines and had thus died in the "fierce assault" made matters even worse. The "daylight o'er the pavement. . . has faded,/ And the strong dead-march enwraps [him]." The demise of the father and son haunts the narrator and he experiences great sorrow when watching the funeral procession.
Despite the tragic deaths of the father and son, the bugles, drums, and the moon have already accepted the deceased. From the beginning, the drums are pounding, the bugles are sounding, and the moon rises and shines. The bugles and drums continue to carry on with their duties and don't exhibit their dejection in any way. However, a sense of sadness is existent in the moon. The moon is described as beautiful, but also phantom-like, "ghastly," and "sorrowful." Nevertheless, being so vast and immense, the moon is able to remain strong and continue to shine.
This glory of the moon is enhanced by a mother's image shining brightly in the narrator's face, greatly influencing him. He realizes that the father and son will be eternally together in the double-grave newly made in their honor. Not only that, but the mother of heaven or even the father's mother, exists in heaven and will take excellent care of the two brave soldiers in their next life.
Realizing that he should be proud of the father and son for dying honorably for their country, he is comforted by the bugles, drums, and the moon for continuing on with their lives and presenting the proper respect. After being overwhelmed at the sight of the "dead-march," he is gradually swayed by the strength of the objects around him to accept the deaths. Therefore, following the example of the instruments and the moon, the narrator realizes that death is part of war and is inevitable. Therefore, the narrator is finally capable of giving the father and son his tribute. Following the examples of the moon and instruments, the narrator also gives the most valuable gift he has to offer: love from his heart.

My other "Dirge for Two Veterans" works:
"Dirge for Two Veterans"
Journal Entry

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