Momus

By Carl Sandburg 1878–1967 Carl Sandburg
Momus is the name men give your face,
The brag of its tone, like a long low steamboat whistle
Finding a way mid mist on a shoreland,
Where gray rocks let the salt water shatter spray Against horizons purple, silent.

                  Yes, Momus,
Men have flung your face in bronze
To gaze in gargoyle downward on a street-whirl of folk.
They were artists did this, shaped your sad mouth,
Gave you a tall forehead slanted with calm, broad wisdom;
All your lips to the corners and your cheeks to the high bones
Thrown over and through with a smile that forever wishes   and wishes, purple, silent, fled from all the iron things of life, evaded like a sought bandit, gone into dreams, by God.

I wonder, Momus,
Whether shadows of the dead sit somewhere and look with deep laughter
On men who play in terrible earnest the old, known, solemn repetitions of history.
A droning monotone soft as sea laughter hovers from your kindliness of bronze,
You give me the human ease of a mountain peak, purple, silent;
Granite shoulders heaving above the earth curves,
Careless eye-witness of the spawning tides of men and women
Swarming always in a drift of millions to the dust of toil, the salt of tears,
And blood drops of undiminishing war.

Source: Poetry (March 1914).

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This poem originally appeared in the March 1914 issue of Poetry magazine

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March 1914
 Carl  Sandburg

Biography

"Trying to write briefly about Carl Sandburg," said a friend of the poet, "is like trying to picture the Grand Canyon in one black and white snapshot." His range of interests was enumerated by his close friend, Harry Golden, who, in his study of the poet, called Sandburg "the one American writer who distinguished himself in five fields—poetry, history, biography, fiction, and music."

Sandburg composed his poetry primarily in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Mythology & Folklore, Arts & Sciences, Painting & Sculpture, Nature, War & Conflict, Humor & Satire, The Body, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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