Reconciliation: by Walt Whitman - Summary & Analysis

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Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin-I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.


      Introduction. Reconciliation is a very short poem of six lines and about eighty words. Yet its effect on the readers is highly ennobling. This is taken from Drum Taps the collection of poems on various aspects of the American Civil War on the question of abolition of slavery. The contending parties were both citizens of the United States of America and therefore after the cessation of hostilities, there is no meaning in nursing animosity. The poet forgives one such enemy who lies in the coffin and imprints a kiss on the pallid face as a mark of his reconciliation.

      Summary. In the poem Reconciliation, the poet is of the opinion that war and its deeds of carnage must of necessity be forgotten. Death and Night wash off the dirt and evils in the world. The poet has now no feelings of ill-will against his erstwhile enemy who is dead. No hatred or ill-will should be taken beyond the grave. The poet sees the corpse of the enemy in the coffin. He bends down and touches lightly with his lips the pale face of the dead enemy.

      Critical Analysis. The world is too beautiful to give permanency to wars and hostilities. There is a divine spark in man and if we recognize it we will cease to nurse grudges against anyone. All religions call upon man to have this sublime feeling. Further death should make us forget and forgive all hostilities and ill feelings. There is an underlying comradery and kinship among all human beings. Unless we are aware of it and decide once and for all not to have recourse to war for solving problems there is no future for mankind.

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