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Sandberg's whole life was available to him as he wrote everything in seen heard touched or imagined. Nothing was prosaic. All of his poetry from the slightest and nearest thing to the greatest and farthest away. If the same thing was true of Emily Dickinson whom Sandburg admired he evidently did not post to consider how bound she let herself be by stanzas. And Ryan was far from limiting her. They seemed actually to release the Whitman and her time was no less scornful than Sandberg later. Of what he called piano tunes. In Sandberg's own case in Sandberg's own time there was Robert Frost. You know when I was supposed to be a victim of say I am back pentameter. For us to do anything he pleased with that and he pleased to do many things.
Samberg choosing another way had his own happiness to hammer out. He did hammer it out knowing as he once said that in that in the spacious highways of books major or minor each poet is allowed the stride that will get him where he wants to go. If with God help him he can hit that stride and keep it. Since Sandberg hit it and kept it. Walking through the world with others by his side all of the others he never felt alone in the family of man whose voices he overheard as if they were his very own saying such things as this from the people. Yes I took so much medicine. I was sick for a long time after I got well. Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket. Busted are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed. I don't know where I'm going but I'm on my way. You can't tell
him anything because he thinks you know it more now that he gets paid for it. He always takes off his hat when he mentions his own name. The time to sell is when you have a customer. Which way to the post office boy. I don't know you don't know much do you know by that I ain't lost. Didn't you hear me holler for help. Yes but your such a lie here I didn't think you meant it. I'm trying not to laugh myself. How can I let go. How can I let you know I was all I could do to hold up.
In Vermont in Vermont. A shut mouth has been finally brought forth to his wife. When I think of how much you have meant to me all these years it is almost more than I can do sometimes to keep from telling you. Not that this is the only idiom he shares with the rest of the rice. There is one idiom he shares with nobody else at all. It is the lonely idiom of moon worlds and fog whispers he walks through sometimes by himself. Perhaps he cultivated this idiom in a conscious attempt to surprise those readers who thought of him as nothing but a Chicago poet. A tough question why with a swagger in his stride hog butcher toolmaker stacker of wheat freight handler stormy Lecky brawling. Even those readers of Chicago poems however should have read on to the fourth poem last
desolate and alone all night long on the lake where fog trails and mist creeps the whistle of a boat calls and cries an ending play like some lost child. It tears in tears and trouble hunting the harbors breast and the harbors eyes. And there were other poems like it though they were less talked of than their broad chested brother. Perhaps there was too much talk of Sandberg's toughness. He knew he was tender too. And so conceivably he overdid the tenderness in later volumes becoming too Mooney and Misty for anything to evanescent to share too delicate and fading in the long run this did not matter for his tenderness being genuine had its own strength and this strength is manifest in plenty of places. Yet the threat of softness the one thing he surely despised was present to the end. The strength nevertheless is not absent long and the sign of it
is a rhythm so distinct and powerful and so organically ordered that the poet in Sandburg may be said to have become formal after all his best poems have an intensity not to be mistaken. A drive toward their own ends that nothing can stop a fine example is three spring notations on by pads whose long and short lines compose a perfect piece of music. First notation the down drop with the Black Bird the wing catch of a rested flight stop midway and then off off are triangles circles loops of new hieroglyphs. This is April's way a woman. Oh yes I'm here again and your heart knows I was coming. Second notation. White pigeons rush at the sun. A marathon of winning feats is on. Who most loves danger who most loves wings who somersault for God's sake in the name of winning power in the sun
than blue on an April Thursday. So 10 wing heads 10 feet raced there white forms over Elmhurst. They go fast once the tender together where a feather a phone bubble a chrysanthemum world speaking silver and Asia the third notation the child is on my shoulders in the prairie moonlight the child's legs hang over my shoulders. She sits on my neck and I hear her calling me a good horse. She slides down and into the moon silver of a Prairie Stream. She throws a stone and laughs at the plug plug. Not only is the rhythm of each notation ordered toward an end and therefore sufficient for the purpose but the movement of the whole varies from section to section. Swift in the first tumultuous in the second and quiet in the third as befits human by PED's a father and his little daughter taking their ease in
Prairie moonlight beside a Prairie Stream without any velocity worth mentioning. The different movement in forms by relief a priceless picture of five geese on the march. The point itself is is the march triumphant absurd. Wonderful. All of these things somehow together five geese deploy mysteriously onward proudly with flags stacks purses with silver bugles bushels of plum blossoms dropping for Tenn mystic webbed feet each his own drum major each charged with the honor of the ancient goose nation each with a nose length surpassing the nose the length of rival nations somberly slowly unimpeachably five geese deploy mysteriously. The remarkable thing here or one remarkable thing among many that might be cited is that
Sandberg finds the gates laughable and admirable at the same time. They are ridiculous if they dig into it is beyond dispute. It is so far beyond dispute in fact as to make us wonder whether we should have left. This is seriousness indeed and perhaps to the sublime Sandberg's instinct was always to poke fun at pump. I for instance in a bit of dialogue that appears without warning in the people yes. I am John Jones. Take a chair. Yes and I am the son of John Throckmorton Jones. Is that possible. Take two chairs. Yet as likely as not he reveals the lurking fun in this for the person age. He makes asks us to smile at not John Jones of course but certainly General Winfield Scott who may confound at the head of the United States Army when they went to Washington and in 1861. I read in the first volume of the war he is 6 feet 5
inches tall 300 pounds in weight and shining gold braid and buttons in Broad Ripple at a long plumed hat. When he walked he seemed almost to parade by himself. Small boys waited of a morning to see him come out of his house and move like six six regiments toward a waiting carriage. But with age dropsy Vertigo vertigo and all bullets to carry he could no longer mount a horse between our smiles we too wee too much to admire such a man. Nothing is more interesting about Sandberg's in this Gift of being able to laugh at what he loved. It was the sign and seal the surer proof the whole mark of his humor and he could deliver its effect in verse as well as in prose. He was never more of a poet. And when he was doing so. In the volume smoking steel there was a poem redheaded restaurant cashier that
presses someone to laugh who presumably never has. Who worries who doubts shake back your hair already had a girl let go your laughter and keep your two proud wrinkles on your chin freckles on your chin. Somewhere is a man looking for a red headed girl and someday maybe he will look into your eyes for a restaurant cashier and find a lover maybe around and around oh ten thousand men hunting a red headed girl with two freckles on her chin. I have seen them hunting hunting shake back your hair. Let go your left are both exaggeration and understatement. Are there 10000 men to be that maybe that many maybe. And the girl though she is not heard the poet speak thinks better of herself. She has chances after all. Yet the poet even if he did speak disguised the purpose he had of comforting her with the thought that she was desirable. He disguised it by exaggerating as if he
knew she knew that reassurance had been unnecessary which is too much to say of so short and simple a poem. Yet it is not simple either unless humanity itself is simple as all of us know in our bones it is not. Anyone who has heard wind in a right cornfield will remember that it never ceased while he stood and listened. Of all incessant sound it is the king. The point I'm laughing corn renders this fact of nature with high spirits and I weird almost earthly accuracy. There was a high and majestic fooling the day before yesterday in the yellow corn and day after tomorrow in the yellow car and there will be high and majestic fooling the ears ripen in late summer and come on with the conquering laughter. Come on with the high and conquer the left or the Long Tail blackbirds are horse one of the smaller blackbirds shitters on a stop and a spot of
red is on shoulder and I never heard his name in my life. Some of the ears are bursting. The white juice works inside. Corn silk creeping in corn creeps in the end and dangled in the wind. Oh hours I never knew it any other way. The wind in the corn talk things over together and the rain and the corn in the sun and the sun and the corn talked things over together over the road is a farmhouse the siding is white and the green blind is slung loose that will not be fixed till the corn is. Asked the farmer and his wife talked things over together. I talk things over together a necessity in Sandberg's world where wind and grass and trees and like waves all have tongues where pumpkins speak. I am a jocular man and with terrible teeth and the children know I am fooling where Miss twisters and the moon knows
all the languages of man talk and endless talk was the very breath of his being. And in the end it was human talk he made over every subject animate or inanimate in the image of our species. His Lincoln was a talker not a monument in bronze or marble. The people yes it is talk nothing but talk. He simply could not do without it. And there were all those years when his guitar and he talked things over together a high and majestic feeling or sometimes just plain fooling. So it is not surprising that birds for him were men and women to Rennes for instance but in the point he called people of the Eves I wish you good morning. The Rens have trouble like us. The House of Iran will not run itself any more than the house of a man they chatter the same as two people in a flat where the laundry came back with the shirts of another man and the shimmy of another woman.
The shirt of a man ran the shimmy of a woman ran. Trouble in the round house. It is this or something else. Back of this chatter a spring morning trouble goes so quick in the round house. Now they're hopping Wren Jade's bitten off in a high run staccato time. People of the eves. I wish you good morning. I wish you a thousand thanks. A thousand thanks for what we're being alive for being there and for being people. It may be that Sandberg didn't know about another human trait in Rand. If you didn't he would certainly have liked to. The Mail ran arrives first in the spring busily builds a nest by fitting twigs into the cavity. He has chosen and when the female arrives greets her with passionate proud song flying up and down and back and forth as if to say See. It's ready but she without a word tears all the pigs out and
starts building again from scratch. The Rens have trouble like us. Indeed they do. One of Sandberg's characters complete poems as among other things a gallery of characters might almost be a bird he is so fond of light. He is of course a man but he has an amusing obsession with the title of the poem Harry appears foolish about Windows makes evident. I was foolish about Windows. The house was an old one and the windows were small. I asked Carpenter to come and open the walls and put in bigger windows. The bigger the window the more costs he said. The bigger the cheaper I said. So he tore off siding in plaster and ladders and put in a big window and bigger windows. I was hungry for Windows.
One neighbor said if you keep on you'll be able to see everything there is. I answered that'll be alright I'll be classy enough for me. Another neighbor said. Pretty soon your house will be all windows. And I said Who would the joke be on then. And still another those who live in glass houses gather no moss. And I said Birds of a feather should not throw stones. And a soft end answer turned away. Rats. This poem is written in the first person but we do not need to assume that Sandberg is the man unless the dance of Proverbs at the end distorted to remind his of the people. Yes and it was also his propensity propensity to caper as he does in still another punch drunk poem calls not just slipped on jazz. Are you happy it's the only way to be kid. Yes be happy it's a good
nice way to be but not happy happy kid. Don't lead to doubled up doggone happy. It's the double That doggone happy happy people bust hard they do bust hard when they bust be happy kid but not too doggone happy. Sandberg has many points of death and of the desolation. Time works in the world yet they alternate with poems of happiness so complete that he scarcely knows what to say about it once he merely beheld a happy man. A man he stood awhile and watched and doubtless wondered at the one the perfect and famous poem that celebrates him he suppresses all comment. The point is one of his earliest and he calls it fish choir. I knew it. I know I'll start over. I know a jewfish choir down on Maxwell Street with a voice like a north wind blowing over corn stubble in January. He dangles
herring before prospective customers even sing enjoy identical with that of Pablo but that seeing his face is that of a man. Terribly glad to be selling fish. Terribly glad that God made face and question Mr whom he may call his wares from a pushcart. The humor of this carries no condescension in it though there can be no doubt about the humor. The fish crier unaware that he is being watched pursues his trade with a solemnity both funny and wonderful both absurd and affable and who knows that he doesn't. And who knows that he doesn't think so too. Possibly not but there is a joy in him that passes in December then into us then on to God knows where. Nothing in Sandburg more attractive than his power to pick out of the human throng such precious persons as this one is. We can believe in we do believe as we keep reading on that Sandburg never found any individual to be of merely neutral interest. He might be against him rather
than for him. Usually his for him since his capacity for affection is unlimited. But even then he is the farthest farthest thing from unmoved he can even be moved by doing this by the drab spectacle of people in whose faces he finds neither hope nor joy. Host of the street car in Chicago poems present such a spectacle. Come you cartoonists hang on a strap with me here at seven o'clock in the morning on a host of Street car. Take your pencils and draw these faces. Try it with your pencils for these faces that big figure in one corner is mild that overall factory girl her loose cheeks find for your pencil as a way to mark your memory of tired empty faces after their night's sleep in the moist dawn and cool DAYBREAK faces. Tired of wishes empty of dreams.
Tired of wishes that is even better than empty of dreams but most. Both the marbles are phrasing both are precise as only the best writing ever is. They're seen as expanded in a later and longer poem cliffs of the Ohio River at Cincinnati. It has two parts and the only connection between them may be the fact that Sandburg is a spectator in both. Purely a spectator musing as he watches two girls two men and finally the beautiful river which flows on by them all regardless. First part a young thing in Spring Green slippers stocking still vivid as light like time grass and the Red Lion of a flounder French sailed again up under her chin. She slipped along the street at half past six in the evening came out of the stairway of her street address is where she has a telephone number just a couple of blocks from the street next to
the Ohio River where men are men sit in chairs back watching the evening lights on the water of the Ohio River. She started out for the evening dark brown calf eyes roaming and hunted as a new young wild ways were not so young anymore nor so wild. Another evening primrose stood in a stairway with a white knit sweater fitting her shoulders and ribs close. She asked a young ballplayer passing for a few kind words and a pleasant look and he stopped up to her like an empire calling a runner out at the home plate. He gave her a few words and passed on. She had bells on. She was jingling and yet her young wild ways were not so young anymore nor So while the second part. When I asked for fish in the restaurant facing the Ohio River with fish signs and fish pictures all over the wooden
acquitted frame of the fish the young man said come around next Friday the fish is all gone today. So I took eggs fried straight up one side and he murmured coming looking out of the shining breast of the Ohio River and the next to something else and the next to something else. The customer next was a horse run rushed about handling nail tags on a steamboat all day asking for three eggs sunny side up 3 nothing less. Shake as I mean by no eggs. And while we sat eating eggs looking at the shining breast of the Ohio River in the evening light he had these thoughts and I had mine thinking how the thinking how the French who found the Ohio river named La Belle Riviere meaning a woman easy to look at. She had bells on. She was jingling. Yet she was not so young anymore. And now she is utterly gone. So was the horse man who ordered
three eggs nothing less and so was the poet who watched them missing nothing. Only the beautiful river is there and even it is not so young anymore nor so wild. Therefore it might be well to let Carl Sandburg tell us good bye in the name of something he knew to be everlasting. And so do we his famous poem grass will have the final word. Pile the bodies high after Letts and Waterloo shovel them under and let me work. I am like grass. I cover all and pile them high at Gettysburg and pile them high and bear down. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years ten years and passengers aft conductor What place is that. Where are we now. I am the grass. Let me work it. It was.
Library of Congress lectures II
Episode Number
Episode 4 of 9
Producing Organization
WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3701. This prog.: Mark Van Doren is heard in the annual Carl Sandburg Memorial Lecture.
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-40-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:16
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Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 4 of 9,” 1968-09-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 4 of 9.” 1968-09-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 4 of 9. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from