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Monday, August 4, 2014

Poem Review: The Sea Hold by Carl Sandburg (1918)

Few things are as free as the sea. Poems of the sea have weaved their way through society since its very beginning. It was a way of life for a huge percentage of society and a way of receiving sustenance.  The sea can also represent a vast ocean of knowledge that understands the world in a much greater depth than man. It contains hidden treasures of modern and ancient history. 

The poem The Sea Hold by Carl Sanburg discusses this vast knowledge and how people perceive the sea. Throughout the centuries the sea has lost nothing. Men that have gathered on a vacation or expedition eat their catch and share stories. He comments on how they know little of the sea and misinterpret its nature.

Carl Sanburg is of Swedish descent and spent much of his life working in menial jobs that include milk delivery, hotel worker, and secretary. He eventually earned a number of Pulitzer Prizes for poetry and his work on Abraham Lincoln. Through his success he was invited to address with a joint session of Congress (1). 

The sea is large.
The sea hold on a leg of land in the Chesapeake hugs an early sunset and a last morning star over the oyster beds and the late clam boats of lonely men.
Five white houses on a half-mile strip of land... five white dice rolled from a tube.

Not so long ago the sea was large...
And to-day the sea has lost nothing... it keeps all.

I am a loon about the sea.
I make so many sea songs, I cry so many sea cries, I forget so many sea songs and sea cries.

I am a loon about the sea.
So are five men I had a fish fry with once in a tar-paper shack trembling in a sand storm.

The sea knows more about them than they know themselves.
They know only how the sea hugs and will not let go.

The sea is large.
The sea must know more than any of us.

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