The Old Codger’s Lament

By Carl Rakosi 1903–2004 Carl Rakosi
Who can say now,
“When I was young, the country was very beautiful?   
Oaks and willows grew along the rivers
and there were many herbs and flowering bushes.   
The forests were so dense the deer slipped through   
the cottonwoods and maples unseen.”

Who would listen?
Who will carry even the vicarious tone of that time?

In the old days
                        age was honored.
Today it’s whim,
                         the whelp without habitat.

Who will now admit
                            that he is either old or young   
or knows anything?
All that went out with the forests.

Carl Rakosi, “The Old Codger’s Lament” from The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 1986). Used with the permission of Marilyn J. Kane.

Source: The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (National Poetry Foundation, 1986)

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Poet Carl Rakosi 1903–2004

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Living, Growing Old

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Rakosi


The son of German Jewish parents, Carl Rakosi was born in Berlin in 1903, moving soon to Hungary following his parents’ separation in 1904. Immigrating with his father and stepmother to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1910, he eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin (where he edited the literary magazine) and later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Rakosi’s involvement in the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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