'Under' by Carl Sandburg

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I am the undertow
Washing tides of power
Battering the pillars
Under your things of high law.

I am a sleepless
Slowfaring eater,
Maker of rust and rot
In your bastioned fastenings,
Caissons deep.

I am the Law
Older than you
And your builders proud.

I am deaf
In all days
Whether you
Say "Yes" or "No".

I am the crumbler:

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Under" by Carl Sandburg: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Wow. Just wow. "Under" by Carl Sandburg is a true masterpiece in the world of poetry. This short, sixteen-line poem is packed with layers of meaning and imagery that leave the reader in a state of awe and reflection.


Before we dive too deep into the poem, let's quickly go over Carl Sandburg's background. Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor who lived from 1878 to 1967. He was born in Illinois and worked a variety of jobs before becoming a full-time writer. Sandburg's poetry often celebrated the working-class and common people, and he was a champion of social justice and equality.


Now, let's get into the poem itself. "Under" is a short, free verse poem that consists of four stanzas, each with four lines. Here's the poem in its entirety:

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,

Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,

Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you

Beautiful, isn't it? Let's break it down stanza by stanza.

### Stanza 1

The poem opens with the image of a harvest moon and silver light dripping over a garden. Sandburg sets the scene with rich imagery that invites the reader into a tranquil, twilight world.

### Stanza 2

In this stanza, Sandburg introduces the theme of death. He personifies death as a "gray mocker" who whispers to the reader "as a beautiful friend who remembers." Sandburg's language here is interesting - he uses the word "mocker" to describe death, suggesting that death is not to be taken seriously or feared, but rather mocked or trivialized. The idea of death as a friend who remembers is also intriguing - it suggests that death is not an enemy, but rather a natural part of life that we can embrace.

### Stanza 3

The third stanza of the poem shifts gears from death to love. Sandburg describes the scene of summer roses, with their flagrant crimson color, lurking in the dusk of wild red leaves. The language here is sensual and evocative, conjuring up images of a lush, romantic setting.

### Stanza 4

In the final stanza, Sandburg personifies love as having "little hands" that come and touch the reader with a thousand memories. The image of love as a gentle, intimate force is powerful and moving.

## Interpretation

So what does it all mean? "Under" is a poem about life, death, and love. Sandburg uses imagery and personification to explore the ways in which these three forces intersect and influence each other. The poem suggests that death, far from being something to fear or avoid, is a natural part of life that we can embrace and even welcome. Love, meanwhile, is portrayed as a gentle, intimate force that connects us to our memories and emotional past.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of "Under" is the way Sandburg uses language and imagery to challenge our assumptions about these three forces. Death, usually portrayed as an enemy or something to be feared, is instead mocked and trivialized. Love, usually portrayed as a grand, all-consuming force, is instead portrayed as having "little hands" and touching us with a thousand memories. Sandburg forces us to reconsider our preconceptions about life, death, and love, and encourages us to see these forces in a new and more complex light.

## Conclusion

"Under" is a stunning piece of poetry that has stood the test of time. Sandburg's use of imagery, personification, and language is masterful, and the themes of life, death, and love are explored in a way that is both profound and thought-provoking. This poem is a reminder that poetry can be a powerful tool for challenging our assumptions and exploring the mysteries of life.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Under by Carl Sandburg: A Poem of the Human Condition

Carl Sandburg’s poem Under is a masterpiece of modernist poetry that explores the human condition in a way that is both profound and accessible. Written in 1914, the poem is a meditation on the nature of existence, the meaning of life, and the inevitability of death. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of Under, and examine how Sandburg uses these elements to create a powerful and moving work of art.


At its core, Under is a poem about the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Sandburg uses a variety of images and metaphors to convey this theme, from the “black ash” of the fire to the “gray dust” of the earth. The poem is also a meditation on the human condition, and the ways in which we struggle to find meaning and purpose in a world that is often chaotic and unpredictable. Sandburg suggests that the only way to find meaning in life is to embrace the inevitability of death, and to live each day to the fullest.


One of the most striking features of Under is its use of vivid and evocative imagery. Sandburg uses a variety of images to convey the theme of transience and mortality, from the “black ash” of the fire to the “gray dust” of the earth. These images are both powerful and haunting, and they create a sense of inevitability and finality that is both unsettling and profound.


The language of Under is simple and direct, but it is also rich and evocative. Sandburg uses a variety of poetic techniques to create a sense of rhythm and flow, from the repetition of the word “under” to the use of alliteration and assonance. The poem is also notable for its use of metaphor and symbolism, which help to convey the deeper themes and ideas that underlie the work.


In conclusion, Under is a powerful and moving work of modernist poetry that explores the human condition in a way that is both profound and accessible. Sandburg’s use of vivid imagery, simple language, and poetic techniques creates a work that is both haunting and beautiful, and that speaks to the universal experiences of life, death, and the search for meaning and purpose. Whether read as a meditation on mortality or as a celebration of life, Under is a poem that will resonate with readers for generations to come.

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