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Short poem

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)


              1 PILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
              2Shovel them under and let me work--
              3                            I am the grass; I cover all.

              4And pile them high at Gettysburg
              5And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
              6Shovel them under and let me work.
              7Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
              8                            What place is this?
              9                            Where are we now?

            10                            I am the grass.
            11                            Let me work.


1] Austerlitz: a village, now named Slavkov, where on Dec. 2, 1805, Napoleon led an outnumbered French army to victory over Austrian and Russian forces.
Waterloo: Napoleon's final defeat, near this town in Belgium on June 18, 1815, by a European coalition including Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia.

4] Gettysberg: a decisive victory by the Union army in the American civil war was won near this Pennsylvania town July 1-3, 1863.

5] Ypres: a town in Belgium at which three battles were fought in World War I (1914, 1915, and 1917) resulting in over 600,000 casualties and stalemate.
Verdun: during most of 1916 the Allied and German armies fought over this French town and castle, the battles ending indecisively with nearly 700,000 casualties.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Carl Sandburg, Cornhuskers (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1918), p. 126. PS 3537 A618C6 1916 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1918
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/7

Form: Free Verse

Other poems by Carl Sandburg