Study Guide

Grass Memory and the Past

By Carl Sandburg

Memory and the Past

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
                                   I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work. (1-6)

The poem begins in a pretty harsh manner. The grass calls for soldiers to dispose of their dead, so that it can get to work. It mentions a number of famous battles, but their specifics don't seem important to the grass. Nature doesn't remember; it just gets right down to the business of erasing the signs of the past.

Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                                   What place is this?
                                   Where are we now? (7-9)

When (living) humans enter the poem for the first and only time, we find out that the grass has been successful—maybe even a little too successful. When they look out the train window, they do not even notice that the land they see flying by is an old battlefield. The grass has covered up all evidence of the horrors that once existed on the now-green landscape.

                       I am the grass.
                       Let me work. (10-11)

We've heard these lines before from the grass, but now they take on an even more ominous tone. We know that the grass is successful in erasing the past from the landscape. Guess we'll have to rely on ourselves to do the remembering.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...