“Grass” by Carl Sandburg

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
This poem is affecting and quiet. (Grass is abiding; battle is momentary.) This poem is recognized and anthologized. (Train riders are workaday, everyday, oblivious, all of us.) This poem feels to be one of the immortal poems that should live long beyond our current civilization. I thought I had a handle on it, but it is too complex. Is it a melancholic, uplifting poem about healing? Is it a bitter, rebuking poem about forgetting? The imagery of the grass seems serene, is set in contrast to the implied uproar of battle. The imagery of train riders has been archaic and therefore exotic for already fifty years, but continues to work, and should continue to continue to work. The five battles named are and should ever remain prominent in history, even when that history is far more distant and exotic than it already is today; in two thousand years and in ten thousand years, the slaughter of the battles should still be as comprehendible. Can any work of art imbue beauty to battle? This poem achieves something great… but what is that, exactly?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Grass”

Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

“Manitoba Childe Roland” by Carl Sandburg

Winter Special:
Join Sandburg by his chair, January after January, year after year, and hear of glory forlorn.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Manitoba Childe Roland”

Carl Sandburg

Last night a January wind was ripping at the shingles over our house and whistling a wolf song under the eaves.

I sat in a leather rocker and read to a six-year-old girl the Browning poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

And her eyes had the haze of autumn hills and it was beautiful to her and she could not understand.

A man is crossing a big prairie, says the poem, and nothing happens—and he goes on and on—and it’s all lonesome and empty and Continue reading

“Chicago” by Carl Sandburg

Broad, bold, brawling poetry.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Chicago”

Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. Continue reading