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Short poem

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)


              1THERE are no handles upon a language
              2Whereby men take hold of it
              3And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
              4It is a river, this language,
              5Once in a thousand years
              6Breaking a new course
              7Changing its way to the ocean.
              8It is mountain effluvia
              9Moving to valleys
            10And from nation to nation
            11Crossing borders and mixing.
            12Languages die like rivers.
            13Words wrapped round your tongue today
            14And broken to shape of thought
            15Between your teeth and lips speaking
            16Now and today
            17Shall be faded hieroglyphics
            18Ten thousand years from now.
            19Sing--and singing--remember
            20Your song dies and changes
            21And is not here to-morrow
            22Any more than the wind
            23Blowing ten thousand years ago.


8] effluvia: streams flowing down from rainfall or snowmelt.

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, Chicago Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916), p. 175. PS 3537 A618C5 1916 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1916
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/7

Form: Free Verse

Other poems by Carl Sandburg