Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revolver by Carl Sandburg

Revolver by Carl Sanburg via Baldr

Here is a revolver.

It has an amazing language all its own.

It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.

It is the last word.

A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.

It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.

It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.

It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.

It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.


  1. That's prose, not poetry. But hey, if you like socialist propaganda, enjoy.

    1. Beats the Charybdis of dadaism that today's literati find themselves mired in.

      If one where to observe the piece in question, wouldn't a rational conclusion (at the personal level) be to bestow oneself with the almighty revolver?

  2. There goes Ian, using E.N.'s favorite references.

    The more I consider this piece, the more suspicious I become. I have old sheets of paper and an antique typewriter, too. Sandburg's style is made for imitation by someone who studies his work. It strikes me as curious that "A Revolver" came to light at this moment.

  3. I analyze the poem here:


    The language sounds more like somone who is trying to imitate Sandburg, and the timing of the "discovery" is interesting.

    Comments are welcome.

    1. Greg,
      He did utilize a certain economy of language, did he not?

    2. Exactly. This "discovery" is at best an early draft that Sandburg rejected or just didn't finish. But the supposed discoverer said it best. "Golly, someone could have written it today." Uh huh--probably did.

  4. First of all, it's Sandburg, with a "d". Please, give the man some respect. Time will tell if it is authentic although, like Greg, I find the timing of its discovery interesting if nothing else. None of that changes the fact that I like Sandburg. He is a little easier to imitate than Faulkner.

    1. That's an embarrassing typo. I did know that. I'll fix it.

  5. Why a revolver? Is that some attempt to couch this modern philosophy in something believable in the latter 19th or early 20th century? Is a revolver an early representamen of the large capacity magazine? Why not just any gun or pistol? If the other guy doesn't have a gun, that just means you need to make the first shot count.

    I used to have a WWII edition of Sandburg's Lincoln in two volumes. I read just about every page. Volume I is The Prairie Years. Volume II is The War Years. I have not been able to find this exact edition at my library. Memory serving, the available edition is in a larger set of volumes. I gave it to my republican brother-in-law to show my love. Published in 1942, it had an inscription which labelled it as a war-time book, printed in accordance with guidelines for saving paper & resources. It also had an engraving of an attacking eagle with a banner reading, "In the War of Ideas, Words are a Weapon."

    My more specific point. Sandburg was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His only valid criticism that I know of is that he somehow lionized and mythologized Lincoln in a way that was somehow greater than the reality. Bigger than life, if you will. This pales compared to the incredible achievement of collecting so many first-hand stories from people or families that either remembered or had collected so many anecdotes and histories of this amazing American. The only part which I find fictionalized in any way is the story of Lincoln's birth and early childhood.

    This poem? Essay? Lyric sheet? Prose? Is offensively banal and non-literary. I would have to guess that the jury is still out on this one. If the hard right can make Bush's AWOL report go away. It should have no problem debunking this piece of fluff.

  6. I guess we will have to file this under "Capain Obvious."

    Who really cares if the poem is legit or not. I would guess not given the smaller numbers of gun violence, suicide and murders in pre-war America. Does Sandburg's name lend this any credence or prescience? Of course not! Children understand that it's not a fair fight when one party can just point a metal tube at the other person and thusly claim their mortality.

    It actually bears exactly no relevance to the current gun debate as most of you. no doubt, understand it. Guns kill other people. We are now arguing....

    I don't really care to analyze it. I leave it in the hands of the president, the governors. Every one knows my point-of-view. Less weapons and less sophisticated, less death and maiming.

    Who else is willing to take this pledge?

    "I, __________ (fill in the blank,) promise never to kill anyone, ever, no matter what the circumstances, unless I am saving another life."

    1. The status of the poem matters to me because I care about literature. Now, the true identity of the author isn't important for the meaning, but the poem itself is badly written. It also doesn't fit into Sandburg's level of work.

      Regarding your pledge, since you don't include saving one's own life, so I can't go along with it.

  7. I love all the conspiracy theory crap from the gun guys here. Anything that sheds a non-positive light on guns must surely be fake in some manner! And what about that timing, eh? Why, it is surely as "fake" as all those non-positive gun statistics published by established scholars at prestigious institutions, in peer-reviewed, internationally-renowned journals.

    1. Did you read my blog article on the subject? Unlike you, I allow comments. You'll see that my reason for doubting this poem is mainly literary. It doesn't rise to the same level of perfection that is typical for Sandburg. Could he have had an off day? Sure, but what's more likely?

      Note also that in my article, I post a genuine poem by Sandburg on the same subject. It expresses his thinking on firearms and on violence in general in a way that fits with his style and skill. My guess is that he would be on the gun control side, were he alive today. I'm just saying that this poem isn't his.

      You accept it not on literary grounds, but because it supports your political beliefs. Isn't that the flipside of what you accused me of doing?

    2. Sure, Greg. And you wouldn't consider yourself a "fake" Sandburg expert, then? Have a degree in literary arts, do you?

      Of course, how "fake" is this document, given that it was found by a volunteer with years of experience archiving poetry at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of a respected university, among other Sandburg writings, and validated by an English professor emeritus who has published multiple volumes of Sandburg's poems?

      Sounds more ligit to me than your "expert" opinion. I'd say it is YOU who is applying your political beliefs.