The narrator is visiting a sick loved one in University Hospital, Boston and reflects on the many patients who have stayed in this hospital, most especially the young men from the battlefields of the American Civil War.


This elegiac poem in blank verse is a love poem to both the medical profession and the poet's loved one who seems to be getting better. One gets the distinct impression, however, that both the poet and the patient, whose professed improvement is relayed to us though the poet, are protesting too much. Each stanza (of four) deftly intertwines the subjects of love, medical care, history and the health of living things. In this poem, which is more sophisticated than a first reading or even a second might indicate, the poet conflates the health of the human patients in University Hospital, Boston, with the leit motif of the well-being of the natural world as exemplified by trees in particular.


The collection in which this poem appears won the National Book Award for Poetry.

Primary Source

New and Selected Poems



Place Published