A Carl Sandburg Poem: Journey and Oath

Pencil Sketch of Carl Sandburg by George Haessler (from the B. Nash collection)

B. Nash with Sandburg sketch





According to The Lincoln Anthology (2009) edited by Harold Holzer the following poem by Carl Sandburg was not published during his lifetime. The book explains that the poem imagines Lincoln’s corpse as an “inextinguishable symbol of toil, thought, sacrifice,” inspiring onlookers to fight against “the exploitation of man by man.”  Here is the poem:

Journey and Oath

When Abraham Lincoln received a bullet in the head and was taken to the Peterson house across the street,
He passed on and was swathed in emulsions and prepared for a journey to New York, Niagara, across Ohio, Indiana, back to Illinois-

As he lay looking life-like yet not saying a word,
Lay portentous and silent under a glass cover,
Lay with oracular lips still as a winter leaf,
Lay deaf to the drums of regiments coming and going,
Lay blind to the weaving causes of work or war or peace,
Lay as an inextinguishable symbol of toil, thought, sacrifice-

There was an oath in the heart of this man and that:
By God, I’ll go as a Man;
When my time comes I’ll be ready.
I shall keep the faith that nothing
is impossible with man, that one
or two illusions are good as money.

By God, I’ll be true to Man
As against hog, louse, fox, snake, wolf,
As against these and their counterparts
in the breast of Man.
By God, I’ll fight for Man
As against famine, flood, storm,
As against crop gambling, job gambling,
As against bootlickers on the left hand,
As against bloodsuckers on the right hand,
As against the cannibalism of the exploitation
of man by man,
As against insecurity of the sanctities of human life.


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One Response to “A Carl Sandburg Poem: Journey and Oath”

  1. Abraham says:

    Great post as always..!!!

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