Monday, July 3, 2017

Carl Sandburg: "The Mist"


I am the mist, the impalpable mist,
Back of the thing you seek.
My arms are long,
Long as the reach of time and space.

Some toil and toil, believing,
Looking now and then on my face,
Catching an olden, vital glory.

But no one passes me,
I tangle and snare them all.
I am the cause of the Sphinx,
The voiceless, baffled, patient Sphinx.

I was at the first of things,
I will be at the last.
          I am the primal mist
          And no man passes me;
          My long impalpable arms
          Bar them all.

-- Carl Sandburg --
The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg

My first thought was that the mist was death, but that second stanza makes me wonder.  I find this an unusual poem for Sandburg, or at least unusual in that the few poems I've read of his seem to focus more on the physical world.   This has much more of a mystical or metaphysical theme, or at least more than I have encountered in the few poems that I have read by him.


  1. This is worth comparing:

    The fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.

    What do you think? Fog v. mist? Each animated? Hmmm.

    1. i have read-someplace-that CS wrote this in San Francisco when he was stationed there, one morning in the cold(my grandfather once told me the coldest he'd ever been in his life was in SF...), watching the fog creep over the hills from the Pacific Ocean...

    2. Mudpuddle,

      I hadn't heard that, but I can see that it's possible, given that San Francisco is famous for its fogs.


  2. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
    Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
    Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
    And seeing that it was a soft October night,
    Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

    1. nice... i'm a little surprised he's not more known or quoted... he seems pretty talented to me...

    2. Mudpuddle,

      Chuckle. . .

  3. It has been a long time since I read Sandberg. perhaps trhe ist is more then death. Perhaps it encompasses many of the Universe's mysteries.

    1. Brian,

      That's what I was thinking also, but where exactly is he going? I have no idea.