Study Guide

Grass Warfare

By Carl Sandburg

Warfare

The vision of war painted by "Grass" doesn't include valor or heroism, supporting one's country, or fighting the good fight. Nope—none of that rah, rah stuff. Instead, in Sandburg's poem, we are faced with war's aftermath—dead bodies to be piled high and then buried, and grass wanting to grow and erase the effects of battle on the landscape. There is nothing redeeming about war in "Grass"; the whole thrust of the poem is that the grass wants to get back to work. And it doesn't matter which war—the Napoleonic Wars, the Civil War, World War I. Newsflash: each war may be fought for different reasons, but all wars end in death and destruction.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Does the poem effectively portray war by giving us a glimpse of its aftermath? Why or why not? 
  2. Does the poem have a pacifist message? Is "Grass" an anti-war poem? Why do you think so? 
  3. Do you think that "Grass" is just about the battles it mentions (at Gettysburg, Austerlitz, etc.)? Does the poem have a specific message about these battles? Or can we read the poem to be about all wars? Why do you think so? 
  4. What is the relationship between war and nature in the poem? Is nature ultimately more powerful than man's wars? What parts of the poem support your answer?

Chew on This

"Grass" argues that all war is unjust. So knock it off, already, lame humans.

Meh—"Grass" doesn't take a stand on war; it just portrays its after-effects on the land.

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