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For the Union Dead

For the Union Dead


Robert Lowell

For the Union Dead Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

Lowell is letting it flow! He doesn't use any formal constraints in this poem, which is fitting for a poem like this. With so much jumping around in time and subject matter, this poem benefits from...


The speaker in this poem is someone living in the present (the present then was the early-mid 1960s), in South Boston. He seems to know the place and its history pretty well, and it's safe to say h...


Not surprisingly for a Lowell poem, we're not exactly in one place the whole time. In fact, we're not really even in the same time period the whole poem. For the sake of our sanity, let's say the p...

Sound Check

What's this poem sound like? A caffeinated rant, that's what! Though Lowell doesn't make use of conventional poetical sounds like rhyme, meter, or alliteration, he crams a ton into this poem, makin...

What's Up With the Title?

The title announces the fact that this is going to be a commemorative poem, specifically for the dead Union soldiers. What we don't know yet is how complicated the title is going to be in relations...

Calling Card

Lowell doesn't like to limit his poems in any way. We've already gone over how he's way out of bounds formally, but this out-of-bounds attitude really seeps into all aspects of his poetry. In this...


This is a deceptively difficult poem. While most of the language is familiar, it's relatively long, skittish with its subject matter, and full of references to historical events. It's hard to keep...


Lowell was related to Colonel Shaw through the marriage of Shaw's sister, Josephine, to one of Lowell's ancestors. Ah, so that explains his interest. (Source.) Charles Russell Lowell, one of Lowell...

Steaminess Rating

This is not even close to steamy. In fact, with some of its downer subject matter, it might have the opposite effect.


Colonel Shaw: A colonel of the Union Army during the American Civil War. He commanded the 54th Infantry from Massachusetts, the first all-black infantry.He was killed, along with many of his men, i...

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