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To Go
For the Union Dead
For the Union Dead
by Robert Lowell

Stanza 5 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 17–18

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.

  • These soon-to-be parking spaces are now just piles of sand, chilling in the middle of Boston.
  • Vocab brush up: "civic" means of or relating to a city, a citizenship, or community affairs. This makes sense when describing the sandpiles because they're in the middle of Boston. 
  • There is a little hint of criticism from the speaker about these inanimate objects. He makes them seem kind of lazy and showy.

Lines 19–20

A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

  • The critical tone continues. Comparing a woman's undergarments (girdle) to the girders (supporting beams) creates a silly visual and makes it hard to take the construction seriously. We definitely let out a giggle picturing this one. 
  • He states that the girders are orange right away. But he goes further to describe them as Puritan-pumpkin colored. Puritan refers to a specific religious population in Boston from its beginning, and though less so, still to this day. Why he uses pumpkin together with Puritan is anyone's guess. Maybe he's thinking of those clichéd early Thanksgiving images. Who knows? 
  • In any case, it's safe to say Lowell is trying to paint a ridiculous, not glamorous, picture. 
  • Lowell uses a form of "tingle" again, here to describe the statehouse (before to describe the young speaker's excitement). It's difficult to pinpoint if Lowell is trying to convey excitement this time or something else. Fear? Anticipation? Let's read on…
Next Page: Stanza 6
Previous Page: Stanza 4

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