Sandburg: Leaves of Grass

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Many a times one has heard the phrase “history will repeat itself”. However, it is rarely fully understood. No matter how many times one hears the numbers, facts, statistics of war, humanity fails to end the cycle. In the poem, “Grass” by Carl Sandburg, Sandburg utilizes repetition and a powerful theme to pose an especially striking stance on war. Consider first the repetition of the words “pile” and “shovel” and the way in which they are repeated. Normally, especially in a short poem like this one, one would want to avoid repetition in order to ensure that the poem stays interesting. Sandburg chooses to depart from that rule of thumb. “Pile” and “Shovel” occur in lines 1 and 2 respectively, so when they recur later they are already…show more content…
And the grass knows that no matter how much time passes it will always have work to do. Wars come round again.
It’s amazing how much Sandburg has managed to convey with such a short poem, especially when one considers the level of repetition which actually reduces the absolute number of lines to about 6 lines. There are other lessons to be learnt from this. By his choice of battles, Gettysberg, Ypres, Verdun etc Sandburg refers to battles that involved great carnage. Battles with a death toll or casualty rate so high that it is unthinkable that we should speak of them as dispassionately as he does. But the use of the names is far more effective in conveying this point than having to spell it out in detail. He can get away with the dispassionate tone and make it “fit” the poem without seeming forced by adopting the unusual view point of having the grass as the observer and the first person speaker. Not only does he cloak the grass with personality but he simultaneously creates a narrator who is present throughout time and who is accordingly in a position to observe the folly of man through history. Other than the merest hint of a rhyme across Waterloo / Verdun, this poem is devoid of rhyme. Why? Rhyme closes lines, links lines together, gives the work a sense of completion and wholeness which is
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