'Graceland' by Carl Sandburg

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Tomb of a millionaire,
A multi-millionaire, ladies and gentlemen,
Place of the dead where they spend every year
The usury of twenty-five thousand dollars
For upkeep and flowers
To keep fresh the memory of the dead.
The merchant prince gone to dust
Commanded in his written will
Over the signed name of his last testament
Twenty-five thousand dollars be set aside
For roses, lilacs, hydrangeas, tulips,
For perfume and color, sweetness of remembrance
Around his last long home.

(A hundred cash girls want nickels to go to the movies to-night.
In the back stalls of a hundred saloons, women are at tables
Drinking with men or waiting for men jingling loose
silver dollars in their pockets.
In a hundred furnished rooms is a girl who sells silk or
dress goods or leather stuff for six dollars a week wages
And when she pulls on her stockings in the morning she
is reckless about God and the newspapers and the
police, the talk of her home town or the name
people call her.)

Editor 1 Interpretation

Graceland by Carl Sandburg: A Masterpiece of Poetic Unity

Graceland is a poem that captivates the reader's imagination through a unique blend of metaphor, symbolism, and imagery. Written by Carl Sandburg, one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century, the poem is an ode to the city of Chicago, Sandburg's hometown. The poem is a masterful depiction of the city's energy, spirit, and beauty, as seen through the eyes of a poet.

The Metaphor of Graceland

Graceland is the name of Elvis Presley's mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. However, in Sandburg's poem, it is a metaphor for Chicago, the city that he loved and celebrated in his poetry. The poem begins by describing Graceland as a place where "the dead lie easy," drawing a contrast between the city's liveliness and the tranquility of the cemetery. The metaphor of Graceland is a powerful one, as it captures the essence of Chicago – a city that is vibrant, alive, and constantly in motion.

The Symbolism of the City

Sandburg uses powerful symbolism to evoke the spirit of the city. He describes the city as a "city of big shoulders," a metaphor that conveys the city's strength, power, and resilience. The city is also described as a "stormy, husky, brawling" place, which suggests a sense of energy, passion, and intensity. The city is alive with the sound of "the singing of the electric wires," the honking of horns, and the clanging of streetcars.

Imagery and Sensory Details

The poem is full of vivid imagery and sensory details that bring the city to life. Sandburg describes the city's streets as "boulevards," its towers as "domes," and its windows as "eyes." He also describes the city's people as "laughing" and "grim," capturing the city's diversity and complexity. Sandburg's use of imagery and sensory details is masterful, as it creates a vivid picture of the city that is both beautiful and haunting.

The Unity of the Poem

Graceland is a poem that is unified by a single theme – the celebration of the city of Chicago. The poem is characterized by a sense of joy and exuberance, as Sandburg celebrates the city's vitality and spirit. The poem is also marked by a sense of urgency, as Sandburg recognizes that the city's energy is constantly in flux.


Graceland is a masterpiece of poetic unity. Through its use of metaphor, symbolism, imagery, and sensory details, the poem captures the essence of Chicago, a city that was close to Sandburg's heart. The poem is an ode to the energy, spirit, and beauty of the city, and it remains one of Sandburg's most celebrated works.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Graceland: A Masterpiece of American Poetry

Carl Sandburg is one of the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century. His works are known for their simplicity, clarity, and accessibility. One of his most famous poems is Graceland, which was published in 1918. This poem is a tribute to the legendary singer Elvis Presley, who was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and later became known as the King of Rock and Roll. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem Graceland in detail, exploring its themes, imagery, and symbolism.

The poem Graceland consists of three stanzas, each containing four lines. The first stanza sets the scene by describing the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Sandburg writes, "This is the land of the midnight sun/ where the hot springs flow and the rivers run/ where the northern lights dance and the eagles soar/ and the King was born in a shotgun shack." The first line refers to Alaska, which is known as the land of the midnight sun because during the summer months, the sun never sets. The second line refers to the natural beauty of Alaska, with its hot springs, rivers, and wildlife. The third line refers to the northern lights, which are a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The fourth line is a reference to the humble beginnings of Elvis Presley, who was born in a small house in Tupelo, Mississippi.

The second stanza of the poem describes the rise of Elvis Presley to fame. Sandburg writes, "He sang his way from Memphis to Hollywood/ from the cotton fields to the silver screen/ he sang his way into the hearts of millions/ and became the King of Rock and Roll." The first line refers to the fact that Elvis Presley started his career in Memphis, Tennessee, where he recorded his first songs at Sun Studio. The second line refers to his transition from a poor boy from the cotton fields to a Hollywood star. The third line refers to the impact that Elvis Presley had on his fans, who loved his music and his charismatic personality. The fourth line is a reference to his nickname, the King of Rock and Roll, which he earned through his innovative style and his influence on popular music.

The third and final stanza of the poem is a tribute to Elvis Presley's legacy. Sandburg writes, "He left us too soon, but his music lives on/ in the hearts of those who loved him/ in the memories of those who saw him perform/ and in the spirit of a nation that he helped to shape." The first line refers to the fact that Elvis Presley died at the age of 42, leaving behind a legacy of music that continues to inspire and entertain people around the world. The second line refers to the emotional connection that his fans had with him, and the impact that his music had on their lives. The third line refers to the experience of seeing Elvis Presley perform live, which was a transformative experience for many people. The fourth line is a reference to the cultural significance of Elvis Presley, who helped to shape the identity of America in the 20th century.

The themes of the poem Graceland are many and varied. One of the main themes is the power of music to transcend boundaries and bring people together. Elvis Presley's music was a fusion of different genres, including blues, country, and gospel, and it appealed to people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Another theme of the poem is the idea of the American Dream, which is embodied in the story of Elvis Presley. He started from humble beginnings and rose to fame and fortune through his talent and hard work. The poem also celebrates the natural beauty of America, with its majestic landscapes and diverse wildlife.

The imagery in the poem Graceland is vivid and evocative. Sandburg uses a range of sensory details to create a sense of place and atmosphere. For example, he describes the hot springs and rivers of Alaska, the northern lights, and the soaring eagles. He also uses imagery to convey the energy and excitement of Elvis Presley's music, such as the image of him singing his way from Memphis to Hollywood, and the reference to the silver screen. The imagery in the poem is both beautiful and powerful, and it helps to bring the story of Elvis Presley to life.

The symbolism in the poem Graceland is also significant. The title of the poem is a reference to the mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley lived for many years. Graceland is a symbol of his success and his legacy, and it has become a pilgrimage site for his fans. The shotgun shack where he was born is also a symbol of his humble beginnings and his connection to the working-class culture of the South. The northern lights and the eagles are symbols of the natural beauty and majesty of America, which Elvis Presley celebrated in his music.

In conclusion, the poem Graceland is a masterpiece of American poetry. It celebrates the life and legacy of Elvis Presley, one of the most iconic figures in popular culture. The poem is a tribute to the power of music, the American Dream, and the natural beauty of America. The imagery and symbolism in the poem are powerful and evocative, and they help to bring the story of Elvis Presley to life. Carl Sandburg's Graceland is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and move people today.

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