Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Carl Sandburg: Southern Pacific, a poem

Southern Pacific

"Huntington sleeps in a house six feet long.
 Huntington dreams of railroads he has built and owned.
 Huntington dreams of ten thousand men saying: Yes, sir.

 Blithery sleeps in a house six feet long.
 Blithery dreams of rails and ties he laid.
 Blithery dreams of saying to Huntington: Yes, sir.

 Blithery sleep in houses six feet long."

 -- Carl Sandburg --
 from Harvest Poems

It's a common enough point, but one that can't be made too often.  Thomas Gray made it also:

"Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
 Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
 Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
 The short and simple annals of the poor.

 The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
 And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
 Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
 The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 
-- Thomas Gray --
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

Death is the great leveler


  1. Without elaboration . . . which perhaps I will jot down someday . . . I will say this about Sandburg: He was (and is) both over-rated and under-rated as a poet (especially because of his production of both really good and really bad poems; that is his paradox. Also, I doubt that Sandburg will be remembered and read in another generation. He will go the way of Longfellow -- once popular but no longer much remembered.

  2. RT,

    That could be as I don't hear much about him anymore. Writers go in and out of fashion, so Sandburg may disappear for a few decades or more. John Donne had disappeared for several centuries until TS Eliot resurrected him in the early 20th century.