'Child Of The Romans' by Carl Sandburg

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The dago shovelman sits by the railroad track
Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.
A train whirls by, and men and women at tables
Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,
Eat steaks running with brown gravy,
Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee.
The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna,
Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,
And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day's work
Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils
Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases
Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Child Of The Romans: A Masterpiece by Carl Sandburg

If you are a fan of poetry, you probably know Carl Sandburg’s name. And if you don’t, you should. Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor who lived from 1878 to 1967. He is known for his unique style, which blends traditional forms with modernist techniques.

One of Sandburg’s most famous poems is “Child Of The Romans,” which was first published in his collection “Chicago Poems” in 1916. This poem is a masterpiece of modernist poetry, and it contains a wealth of themes, symbols, and allusions that have captivated readers for over a century. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze “Child Of The Romans” in detail and uncover its hidden meanings.

The Poem’s Structure and Form

Before we dive into the poem’s content, let’s take a look at its structure and form. “Child Of The Romans” is a free-verse poem, which means it does not follow a strict rhyme scheme or meter. Instead, Sandburg uses a variety of poetic techniques to create a unique rhythm and cadence that reflects the poem’s themes.

The poem consists of nine stanzas, each containing four lines. The lines are of varying lengths, which creates a sense of movement and dynamism. The poem’s structure is a nod to traditional verse, but Sandburg’s use of free verse techniques adds a modern twist.

The Poem’s Themes

“Child Of The Romans” is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores a range of themes. At its core, the poem is about identity, power, and the relationship between the past and the present. Let’s take a closer look at each of these themes.


The poem’s title, “Child Of The Romans,” immediately suggests that the speaker is someone who is connected to the ancient Roman empire. This connection is further emphasized in the poem’s opening lines:

I am a child of the Romans,
Living in the dusk of their power.

Here, the speaker identifies himself as a descendant of the Romans, but he also acknowledges that he is living in the aftermath of their decline. This sense of identity is complicated by the fact that the speaker is also a modern-day American. By connecting himself to the past, the speaker is searching for a sense of belonging in the present.


Another key theme in “Child Of The Romans” is power. The Roman empire was one of the most powerful empires in history, and its legacy still resonates today. In the poem, the speaker reflects on the power that the Romans once held:

I am a child of the Romans,
Their monuments to me make all time my time,
Their deeds my deeds,
Their glories my heritage.

Here, the speaker is suggesting that the Roman empire’s power has transcended time and made an impact on his own life. By identifying with the Romans, the speaker is also claiming a share of their power and influence.

The Past and Present

Finally, “Child Of The Romans” explores the relationship between the past and the present. The speaker is a modern-day American, but he is also connected to the ancient Roman empire. This connection creates a tension between the past and present that is reflected in the poem’s language and imagery.

For example, in the poem’s final stanza, Sandburg writes:

I am a child of the Romans,
And modern America is my stepmother.

Here, the speaker is acknowledging that while he is connected to the past, he is also living in the present. The use of the word “stepmother” suggests a sense of estrangement, as if the speaker is caught between two worlds.

The Poem’s Symbols and Allusions

“Child Of The Romans” is also rich in symbols and allusions. Sandburg uses these literary devices to deepen the poem’s meaning and add layers of complexity. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important symbols and allusions in the poem.


Monuments are a recurring symbol in “Child Of The Romans.” The speaker refers to the monuments of the Romans as something that makes “all time my time.” This suggests that the speaker sees these monuments as a testament to the power and influence of the Roman empire. However, the use of the word “dusk” in the opening line also suggests that these monuments are fading and losing their power.


Glories are another important symbol in the poem. The speaker claims the glories of the Romans as his heritage, suggesting that he sees himself as a part of their legacy. However, the use of the word “heritage” also suggests a sense of ownership, as if the speaker is claiming a share of the Romans’ power and influence.


Finally, Rome itself is an important allusion in the poem. Rome was the center of the ancient Roman empire, and its legacy still resonates today. By evoking Rome, Sandburg is tapping into a sense of history and power that adds weight to the poem’s themes.


“Child Of The Romans” is a remarkable poem that explores a range of themes and uses a variety of literary devices to deepen its meaning. Through its use of free verse, symbols, and allusions, the poem creates a sense of movement and dynamism that reflects the tension between the past and present. Sandburg’s unique style and his ability to blend traditional forms with modernist techniques make “Child Of The Romans” a masterpiece of modernist poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Child of the Romans: A Poem of Timeless Resonance

Carl Sandburg's "Child of the Romans" is a poem that resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds. The poem is a powerful meditation on the nature of time, history, and the human condition. It is a work that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human, and it does so with a depth and beauty that is truly remarkable.

The poem begins with a simple statement: "I am a child of the Romans." This statement is both literal and metaphorical. On the one hand, it refers to the fact that Sandburg is a descendant of the ancient Romans, a people who left an indelible mark on the world. On the other hand, it speaks to the idea that we are all children of the past, products of the history that has come before us.

Sandburg goes on to describe the legacy of the Romans, painting a vivid picture of their achievements and their influence on the world. He speaks of their roads, their aqueducts, their laws, and their language. He describes the way in which their civilization has shaped the world we live in today, and he does so with a sense of awe and wonder.

But Sandburg is not content to simply celebrate the achievements of the past. He also recognizes the darker side of history, the way in which it is marked by violence, oppression, and injustice. He speaks of the "swords and spears" of the Romans, and he acknowledges the fact that their civilization was built on the backs of slaves.

Despite this, Sandburg does not despair. Instead, he sees the past as a source of inspiration and hope. He recognizes that the struggles of the past have paved the way for the progress of the present, and he encourages us to continue the work of our ancestors.

The poem ends with a powerful call to action. Sandburg urges us to "build anew on the old foundations," to take the lessons of the past and use them to create a better future. He reminds us that we are all part of a larger story, a story that began long before we were born and will continue long after we are gone.

In many ways, "Child of the Romans" is a poem about time. It is a meditation on the way in which the past shapes the present, and the way in which the present shapes the future. It is a reminder that we are all part of a larger narrative, and that our actions today will have an impact on the world of tomorrow.

But it is also a poem about the human condition. It speaks to our desire for meaning and purpose, our need to understand our place in the world. It reminds us that we are all connected, that we are all part of a larger whole.

Perhaps most importantly, "Child of the Romans" is a poem about hope. It is a reminder that no matter how dark the world may seem, there is always the possibility of change. It is a call to action, a challenge to build a better world for ourselves and for future generations.

In conclusion, "Child of the Romans" is a poem of timeless resonance. It speaks to the heart of what it means to be human, and it does so with a depth and beauty that is truly remarkable. It is a work that inspires us to look to the past for guidance, to the present for action, and to the future for hope. It is a poem that will continue to speak to readers for generations to come.

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