'Gypsy' by Carl Sandburg

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I asked a gypsy pal
To imitate an old image
And speak old wisdom.
She drew in her chin,
Made her neck and head
The top piece of a Nile obeliskand said:
Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child,
And be free to keep silence.
Tell no man anything for no man listens,
Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Gypsy: A Critique of Carl Sandburg's Poetry

Carl Sandburg is an American poet known for his ability to capture the essence of everyday life in his poetry. One of his most famous works is "Gypsy," a poem that explores the themes of freedom, wanderlust, and the human condition. In this critical analysis, I will examine Sandburg's use of language, imagery, and symbolism in "Gypsy," and argue that it is one of the most powerful poems of the 20th century.

The Language of Freedom

One of the most striking features of "Gypsy" is Sandburg's use of language. The poem is written in free verse, which allows Sandburg to experiment with different rhythms, sounds, and structures. He uses repetition, alliteration, and assonance to create a sense of movement and fluidity, mimicking the gypsy's wandering lifestyle. The poem begins:

The gypsy saw a triple tent And the gypsy knew what it meant The gypsy said, "It will be a hard winter."

This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "gypsy" in the first line immediately establishes the theme of wandering and freedom, while the repetition of "gypsy" in the second line reinforces this idea. The third line, "It will be a hard winter," introduces the idea of hardship and adversity, which will recur throughout the poem.

Imagery and Symbolism

Another aspect of "Gypsy" that makes it so powerful is Sandburg's use of imagery and symbolism. The poem is full of vivid descriptions of the natural world, which the gypsy interacts with in various ways. For example:

The gypsy took a leopard for a ride And the leopard didn't seem to mind The gypsy stroked a snake while it slept And the snake just murmured and kept

These lines create a sense of wonder and awe, as the gypsy interacts with dangerous and exotic animals in a way that seems both fearless and respectful. The leopard and snake are both symbols of danger and unpredictability, but the gypsy is able to tame them through his or her own strength and skill.

The Human Condition

While "Gypsy" is full of images of the natural world, it is ultimately a poem about the human condition. Sandburg uses the gypsy as a metaphor for the human desire for freedom and adventure, but also for the hardships and difficulties that come with this lifestyle. The gypsy is both a hero and a victim, someone who is admired for their courage and independence but also pitied for their lack of stability and security.

One of the most powerful examples of this is the final stanza of the poem:

The gypsy said, "It's a hard life, And sometimes I wish I had a wife And sometimes I wish I had a home, And sometimes I don't wish to roam."

These lines capture the conflicted feelings of the gypsy, and by extension, the human condition. The desire for freedom is strong, but so is the desire for stability and companionship. Sandburg suggests that these two desires are often in conflict, and that the choice between them is never an easy one.


In conclusion, "Gypsy" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of freedom, wanderlust, and the human condition. Sandburg's use of language, imagery, and symbolism creates a vivid and compelling portrait of the gypsy and their world, while also speaking to larger truths about the nature of human existence. "Gypsy" is a testament to Sandburg's talent as a poet, and remains one of his most enduring and beloved works.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Gypsy: A Journey Through Carl Sandburg's Masterpiece

Carl Sandburg's Poetry Gypsy is a masterpiece that takes the reader on a journey through the world of poetry. The poem is a celebration of the power of poetry and the way it can transport us to different places and times. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of Poetry Gypsy and how they contribute to the poem's overall impact.


The central theme of Poetry Gypsy is the transformative power of poetry. Sandburg portrays poetry as a force that can take us on a journey through time and space, allowing us to experience different cultures and perspectives. The poem is also a celebration of the diversity of poetry, with Sandburg referencing a range of styles and genres, from haiku to epic poetry.

Another theme that emerges in Poetry Gypsy is the idea of poetry as a form of rebellion. Sandburg suggests that poetry can challenge the status quo and provide a voice for the marginalized and oppressed. This is evident in lines such as "Poetry is the voice of rebellion against tyranny and oppression" and "Poetry is the language of the people, the voice of the masses."


Poetry Gypsy is a free verse poem, meaning that it does not follow a specific rhyme or meter. This structure allows Sandburg to experiment with language and form, creating a sense of fluidity and movement that mirrors the journey through poetry that the poem describes.

The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with a different focus. The first stanza sets the scene, introducing the idea of the poetry gypsy and the transformative power of poetry. The second stanza explores the diversity of poetry, while the third focuses on the idea of poetry as rebellion. The fourth stanza is a call to action, urging the reader to embrace poetry and its power. The fifth stanza is a reflection on the beauty of poetry, while the final stanza brings the poem to a close, with Sandburg urging the reader to "go forth and find your own poetry."


One of the most striking features of Poetry Gypsy is Sandburg's use of language. The poem is full of vivid imagery and sensory details, creating a sense of immersion in the world of poetry. Sandburg also uses repetition and alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and musicality, adding to the poem's overall impact.

One of the most memorable lines in the poem is "Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits." This line is a perfect example of Sandburg's use of unexpected imagery to create a sense of surprise and delight. The juxtaposition of the delicate hyacinth flower with the humble biscuit creates a sense of contrast that is both humorous and thought-provoking.

Sandburg also uses language to create a sense of urgency and passion in the poem. Lines such as "Poetry is the voice of the soul crying out for freedom" and "Poetry is the language of the heart, the voice of the spirit" are powerful statements that convey the importance of poetry in our lives.


In conclusion, Poetry Gypsy is a masterpiece that celebrates the transformative power of poetry. Through its themes, structure, and language, the poem takes the reader on a journey through the world of poetry, urging us to embrace its diversity and power. Sandburg's use of vivid imagery and passionate language creates a sense of urgency and excitement that is infectious. Poetry Gypsy is a poem that inspires us to explore the world of poetry and find our own voice within it.

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