'A Fence' by Carl Sandburg

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Now the stone house on the lake front is finished and theworkmen are beginning the fence.
The palings are made of iron bars with steel points thatcan stab the life out of any man who falls on them.
As a fence, it is a masterpiece, and will shut off the rabbleand all vagabonds and hungry men and all wanderingchildren looking for a place to play.
Passing through the bars and over the steel points will gonothing except Death and the Rain and To-morrow.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Interpreting the Classic Poem "A Fence" by Carl Sandburg

"Oh boy, we have got a classic here!" That's what I thought to myself when I first read the poem "A Fence" by Carl Sandburg. The poem is simple and sweet, yet it carries a lot of weight. It talks about a fence, but it's not just any fence; it's a fence that tells a story. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will delve deeper into the meaning and significance of this poem.

Form and Structure

Before we get into the meat of the poem, let's take a look at its form and structure. "A Fence" is a short poem consisting of only five stanzas. Each stanza has four lines, and the rhyme scheme is AABB. This structure adds to the simplicity of the poem, as it's easy to read and follow along. It also gives the poem a sing-song quality that makes it enjoyable to recite.

The Fence as a Symbol

Now, let's get into the meat of the poem. The fence in "A Fence" is not just a physical barrier; it's a symbol of the past. The poem starts with the line, "Now the stone house on the lake front is finished," which suggests that the fence has been present for a long time. The fence has witnessed the passing of time and the changes that have occurred.

The fence is described as "crooked, bumpy, and rusty," which gives it a sense of character. The imperfections of the fence are a representation of the imperfections in life. The fence has seen the joys and sorrows of life, and it has weathered the storms.

The fence is also a symbol of the divide between the past and the present. The line, "And the workmen are beginning the fence," suggests that the fence is being repaired or replaced. This represents the changing of the times and the transition from the past to the present.

The Fence as a Storyteller

The fence in "A Fence" is not just a symbol; it's a storyteller. The poem personifies the fence, giving it a voice and a story to tell. The fence tells of the "old days" when the "lords and ladies" used to travel by carriage along the lakefront. This paints a picture of a time long gone, but it also adds to the charm and character of the fence.

The fence also tells of the "young men and women" who used to gather by the lakefront to "court and spark." This gives the fence a sense of nostalgia and romanticism. It's as if the fence is reminiscing about the past and the fond memories it holds.

The Fence as a Reflection

The fence in "A Fence" is not just a symbol or a storyteller; it's also a reflection. The poem ends with the line, "And I never laugh at the old fence anymore." This suggests that the speaker used to mock the fence, but now they have come to appreciate its significance.

The fence represents the past, and the speaker's change of heart represents their acceptance of the past. The speaker has come to realize that the past cannot be changed, but it can be appreciated and learned from. The fence serves as a reminder of the past, and it's a reflection of the speaker's personal growth.


In conclusion, "A Fence" by Carl Sandburg is a beautiful poem that carries a lot of meaning and significance. The fence in the poem is not just a physical barrier; it's a symbol of the past, a storyteller, and a reflection. The poem teaches us to appreciate the past and to learn from it. It also reminds us that imperfections are a part of life and that they can add to the beauty and character of things. "A Fence" is a timeless classic that will continue to be appreciated for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Fence: A Masterpiece by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes for his works. He was known for his unique style of writing, which was simple yet profound. One of his most famous poems is "Poetry A Fence," which has been analyzed and appreciated by many literary enthusiasts. In this article, we will delve into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices used by Sandburg.

The poem "Poetry A Fence" is a short but powerful piece that explores the relationship between poetry and the world. The poem begins with the line, "The earth is a great big animal with a fence around it." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it suggests that the world is a vast and complex entity that is contained within a boundary. The fence represents the limitations of human understanding and the boundaries of language.

The second line of the poem, "A fence around it is a good thing," suggests that the fence is necessary to protect the world from the chaos and disorder that would result if it were left unbounded. The fence also represents the structure and order that poetry brings to the world. Poetry is a way of organizing and making sense of the world, just as the fence organizes and defines the boundaries of the earth.

Sandburg then goes on to say that "The poet has a sharper eye than the others," suggesting that poets have a unique ability to see the world in a way that others cannot. They are able to see beyond the surface of things and perceive the deeper truths that lie beneath. This is why poetry is so important, as it allows us to see the world in a new and profound way.

The next line of the poem, "The poet has a softer voice than the others," suggests that poetry is not just about seeing the world differently but also about expressing that vision in a way that is gentle and compassionate. Poetry has the power to move us emotionally and to touch our hearts in a way that other forms of communication cannot.

The final line of the poem, "And the fence does not hinder the view," suggests that poetry does not limit our understanding of the world but rather enhances it. The fence may define the boundaries of the earth, but it does not prevent us from seeing beyond those boundaries. Similarly, poetry may provide structure and order to our understanding of the world, but it does not limit our ability to see beyond that structure.

The structure of the poem is simple but effective. It consists of four lines, each of which is a complete sentence. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme or meter. This allows Sandburg to focus on the meaning of the words rather than the form.

Sandburg uses several literary devices in the poem to enhance its meaning. One of the most prominent devices is metaphor. The earth is compared to a great big animal, and the fence is compared to the structure and order that poetry brings to the world. These metaphors help to create a vivid and memorable image in the reader's mind.

Another literary device used by Sandburg is repetition. The phrase "the poet" is repeated twice in the poem, emphasizing the importance of poetry and the unique perspective that poets bring to the world. The repetition of the phrase "a fence around it" also emphasizes the importance of structure and order in our understanding of the world.

Sandburg also uses imagery to create a sensory experience for the reader. The image of the earth as a great big animal is a powerful one, evoking a sense of awe and wonder. The image of the fence also creates a sense of structure and order, which is reinforced by the repetition of the phrase "a fence around it."

In conclusion, "Poetry A Fence" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the relationship between poetry and the world. Sandburg's use of metaphor, repetition, and imagery creates a powerful and memorable image in the reader's mind. The poem emphasizes the importance of poetry in our understanding of the world and the unique perspective that poets bring to it. Sandburg's simple yet profound style of writing makes this poem accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds. It is a testament to the power of poetry to move us emotionally and to touch our hearts in a way that other forms of communication cannot.

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