Verse > Carl Sandburg > Chicago Poems
Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Chicago Poems.  1916.
139. Languages
THERE are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years        5
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation        10
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking        15
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing—and singing—remember
Your song dies and changes        20
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.


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