The True-Blue American

By Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966 Delmore Schwartz
Jeremiah Dickson was a true-blue American,
For he was a little boy who understood America, for he felt that he must
Think about everything; because that’s all there is to think about,   
Knowing immediately the intimacy of truth and comedy,   
Knowing intuitively how a sense of humor was a necessity   
For one and for all who live in America. Thus, natively, and   
Naturally when on an April Sunday in an ice cream parlor Jeremiah   
Was requested to choose between a chocolate sundae and a banana split
He answered unhesitatingly, having no need to think of it
Being a true-blue American, determined to continue as he began:   
Rejecting the either-or of Kierkegaard, and many another European;   
Refusing to accept alternatives, refusing to believe the choice of between;
Rejecting selection; denying dilemma; electing absolute affirmation: knowing
         in his breast
                  The infinite and the gold
                  Of the endless frontier, the deathless West.

“Both: I will have them both!” declared this true-blue American   
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on an April Sunday, instructed
         By the great department stores, by the Five-and-Ten,
Taught by Christmas, by the circus, by the vulgarity and grandeur of
         Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon,
Tutored by the grandeur, vulgarity, and infinite appetite gratified and   
         Shining in the darkness, of the light
On Saturdays at the double bills of the moon pictures,
The consummation of the advertisements of the imagination of the light
Which is as it was—the infinite belief in infinite hope—of Columbus,   
         Barnum, Edison, and Jeremiah Dickson.

Delmore Schwartz, “The True-Blue American” from Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge. Copyright © 1967 by Delmore Schwartz. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1967)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966

Subjects Social Commentaries, Heroes & Patriotism

Holidays Independence Day

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Delmore  Schwartz

Biography

Delmore Schwartz had, writes Alfred Kazin, "a feeling for literary honor, for the highest standards, that one can only call noble—he loved the nobility of example presented by the greatest writers of our century, and he wanted in this sense to be noble himself, a light unto the less talented.... So he suffered, unceasingly, because he had often to disappoint himself—because the world turned steadily more irrational and . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Heroes & Patriotism

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.