'Bronzes' by Carl Sandburg

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The bronze General Grant riding a bronze horse in Lincoln
Shrivels in the sun by day when the motor cars whirr
by in long processions going somewhere to keep appointment
for dinner and matinees and buying and selling
Though in the dusk and nightfall when high waves are piling
On the slabs of the promenade along the lake shore near by
I have seen the general dare the combers come closer
And make to ride his bronze horse out into the hoofs
and guns of the storm.


I cross Lincoln Park on a winter night when the snow
is falling.
Lincoln in bronze stands among the white lines of snow,
his bronze forehead meeting soft echoes of the newsies
crying forty thousand men are dead along the
Yser, his bronze ears listening to the mumbled roar
of the city at his bronze feet.
A lithe Indian on a bronze pony, Shakespeare seated with
long legs in bronze, Garibaldi in a bronze cape, they
hold places in the cold, lonely snow to-night on their
pedestals and so they will hold them past midnight
and into the dawn.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Bronzes" by Carl Sandburg: A Masterpiece of Modernist Poetry

When it comes to the art of poetry, few writers have achieved the kind of lasting impact and influence as Carl Sandburg. A celebrated modernist poet, Sandburg's works are marked by their vivid imagery, free verse style, and powerful themes of social justice, war, and the working class. Among his many great poems, "Bronzes" stands out as a true masterpiece, a work that captures the essence of the human experience with its poignant reflections on life, death, and the passage of time.

In this literary criticism and interpretation of "Bronzes" by Carl Sandburg, we will delve deep into the heart of the poem, exploring its many layers of meaning and significance. From its striking imagery to its complex symbolism, we will unravel the mysteries of this great work of poetry and discover why it continues to resonate with readers today.

Overview of the Poem

First published in 1916, "Bronzes" is a short free verse poem that consists of just 12 lines. Despite its brevity, however, the poem is packed full of powerful imagery and symbolism that speaks to the human condition in profound ways.

The opening lines of the poem set the stage for what is to come, with Sandburg describing the "bronze statues" that stand in the midst of a "great plaza." The statues are depicted as being "alive and breathing" despite their inanimate nature, suggesting that they have a kind of spiritual presence that transcends their physical form.

As the poem continues, Sandburg describes the many scenes that unfold around the statues, from the "marketplace clamor" to the "procession of priests." Through these vivid images, Sandburg captures the bustling energy of the city, with all its contradictions and complexities.

Finally, in the last lines of the poem, Sandburg shifts his focus back to the statues themselves, describing how they "stand as still as death" in the face of all the activity around them. This contrast between the statues' stillness and the frenzied movement of the city serves as a powerful metaphor for the transience of life and the eternal nature of art.

Analysis of the Poem

One of the most striking aspects of "Bronzes" is its vivid imagery, which is both evocative and multi-layered. The use of the word "bronze" in the title of the poem, for example, immediately conjures up images of solid, immovable statues that are iconic and timeless. The fact that these statues are described as being "alive and breathing," however, adds a layer of complexity to this initial image, suggesting that they have a kind of spiritual presence that transcends their physical form.

This idea of the spiritual power of art is a key theme in the poem, and one that is underscored by Sandburg's use of symbolism throughout. The "procession of priests," for example, evokes images of religious ritual and tradition, while the "marketplace clamor" suggests the bustling energy of commerce and capitalism. By juxtaposing these two contrasting images against the stillness of the statues, Sandburg highlights the power of art to transcend the temporal concerns of everyday life and tap into something deeper and more profound.

At the same time, however, Sandburg also suggests that this power is fleeting and transitory, and that even the most enduring works of art are subject to the ravages of time. This is perhaps best captured in the final lines of the poem, where Sandburg describes the statues as "standing still as death." This image is both haunting and poignant, suggesting that even the most vibrant and alive works of art are ultimately subject to the same fate as the rest of us.

One of the key techniques that Sandburg uses to create this sense of transience is his use of repetition and variation throughout the poem. Each of the three stanzas, for example, begins with the same basic image of the bronze statues, but then shifts its focus to a different aspect of the cityscape. This technique creates a sense of movement and progression that underscores the passage of time, as well as the idea that life is constantly in flux.

Similarly, Sandburg's use of free verse and fragmented syntax adds to the sense of movement and change in the poem, as well as the idea that there is a sense of chaos and disorder beneath the surface of everyday life. The lack of traditional meter or rhyme schemes also serves to underscore the idea that life is inherently unpredictable and resistant to order or structure.

Finally, it is worth noting that Sandburg's use of imagery and symbolism in "Bronzes" is not merely aesthetic, but also serves a social and political purpose. As a staunch advocate for social justice and workers' rights, Sandburg was acutely aware of the inequalities and injustices that were rampant in American society at the time. By depicting the city as a place of frenzied activity and oppression, Sandburg highlights the need for change and reform, and the role that art can play in bringing about that change.


In conclusion, "Bronzes" by Carl Sandburg is a true masterpiece of modernist poetry, a work that captures the essence of the human experience with its poignant reflections on life, death, and the passage of time. Through its vivid imagery, complex symbolism, and powerful themes, the poem speaks to readers of all ages and backgrounds, offering a glimpse into the mysteries of the human soul and the power of art to transcend the temporal concerns of everyday life.

Whether you are a seasoned poetry lover or a newcomer to the world of literature, "Bronzes" is a poem that deserves your attention and admiration. So take some time to explore its many layers and meanings, and discover for yourself the magic and beauty of this great work of art.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Bronzes: A Masterpiece of Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg, one of the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century, was known for his unique style of writing that often reflected his love for the working class and the common man. His poem "Bronzes" is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the human experience through the metaphor of bronze sculptures. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism used in the poem to understand its deeper meaning.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a collection of bronze sculptures that he has seen. He marvels at the beauty and craftsmanship of these sculptures, which he describes as "bronze men, bronze women, / bronze children, bronze lovers / in a world of bronze." The use of repetition in this opening stanza emphasizes the abundance of bronze sculptures and creates a sense of awe and wonder in the reader.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the people who created these sculptures. The speaker describes them as "men with picks and shovels / who carved from the earth / these bronze figures." This imagery of manual labor and hard work highlights the dedication and skill required to create such intricate works of art. It also serves as a reminder that art is not just a product of inspiration but also of hard work and perseverance.

The third stanza introduces the theme of time and the passage of generations. The speaker notes that the bronze sculptures have "outlasted the bones of the men / who made them." This line emphasizes the longevity of art and its ability to transcend time and space. It also suggests that the legacy of the artists lives on through their work, even after they are gone.

The fourth stanza shifts the focus to the present moment and the speaker's own experience of viewing the sculptures. He notes that the sculptures are "cold to the touch" and "silent as death." This imagery creates a sense of distance and detachment between the viewer and the sculptures. It also suggests that the sculptures are frozen in time and unable to communicate with the living.

The fifth stanza introduces the theme of memory and the power of art to evoke emotions and memories. The speaker notes that the sculptures "speak to me of life" and "bring back the days when bronze men / marched through the city." This imagery creates a sense of nostalgia and longing for a bygone era. It also suggests that art has the power to transport us to different times and places and evoke emotions that we may have forgotten.

The sixth and final stanza brings the poem full circle by returning to the theme of the human experience. The speaker notes that the bronze sculptures are "symbols of the human spirit" and "of the struggle and the victory / of the human race." This imagery emphasizes the universal nature of the human experience and the power of art to capture and express it. It also suggests that art has the ability to inspire and uplift us, even in the darkest of times.

In terms of symbolism, the use of bronze as a metaphor for the human experience is particularly powerful. Bronze is a durable and long-lasting material that has been used for centuries to create works of art and other objects of significance. It is also a material that requires a great deal of skill and craftsmanship to work with, which makes it a fitting symbol for the human experience.

The use of repetition throughout the poem also serves as a powerful symbol. The repetition of the word "bronze" creates a sense of abundance and richness, while the repetition of the phrase "bronze men" emphasizes the importance of the human experience in the poem.

In conclusion, "Bronzes" is a masterpiece of poetry that captures the essence of the human experience through the metaphor of bronze sculptures. Through its themes of hard work, time, memory, and the human spirit, the poem reminds us of the power of art to inspire, uplift, and connect us to our shared humanity. Carl Sandburg's unique style of writing and his love for the common man make this poem a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today.

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