The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Battlefield Analysis

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The Grass is Always Greener over the Battlefield: How Carl Sandburg’s use of free verse, anaphora and tone in the poem Grass inform us of how forgetting history dooms us to repeat history. Carl Sandburg’s use of free verse, anaphora and tone transform a simple eleven-lines of verse into a powerful and dynamic poem. One could apologize for the nod to Erma Bombeck’s book The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank a book that uses humor to explain the growing dissatisfaction of suburban housewives in mid-century America. However while Grass is far from being a humorous poem, the image of covering over something foul and fetid with a carpet of green grass is a worthy comparison. This helps us understand that Sandburg’s antiwar message,…show more content…
He makes the grass the speaker in the poem, because in doing so, he gives the grass a voice to speak and it says, “Let me do my work.” We understand that he grass is not human, it has no emotional investment in these battles, apart from its need to reclaim the battle scarred land, so its voice speaks only to that. It is chilling in its lack of emotion and lack of humanity towards a subject so emotionally charged. Sandburg’s feelings are also evident when speaking of the passengers and of their asking the conductor, “What place is this? Where are we now?” These questions may remind us of how children speak on a long car ride. Perhaps the deeper meaning is that we are still children on the evolutionary road to enlightenment, observing much but absorbing little. The grass may be eternal, but we are not and the visceral reality of the grass covering the dead and the blood and bullets is a reminder of that difference. Yet deeper still, perhaps the grass represents the governments and their covering up the repulsiveness of war by justifying them. Meanwhile the grass just does what grass does, it grows, and it covers. The grass does its work and that is all it wants to do. “Get on with your business humans,” it seems to say, “and I’ll get on with…show more content…
The battlefield of Austerlitz was the site of Napoleon’s great victory over the Russian, Austrian and Holy Roman Empire in 1805. (Wikipedia: Battle of Austerlitz). Conversely, is Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 by Britain and Prussia. (Wikipedia: Battle of Waterloo) As a result, this juxtaposition creates a tension in the verse at the very beginning of the poem, making the intention clear that this poem is about both the horror of war, and the battles being mere markers in the passage of time. Gettysburg is the only battlefield referenced not located in Europe and since Sandburg was American one can assume he was writing for what was largely an American audience. This battle took place in 1863 and was still in public memory when he wrote this poem in 1918. People living during the Civil War, whether soldier, or civilian were likely still alive in 1918 and had been touched in some way by that conflict. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle in the American Civil War, infamous for having the most casualties. (Wikipedia: Battle of Gettysburg) One may ponder why he chose a battle that was still in the collective memories of older Americans and veterans still living 45 years after. The point he was making was that the grass had already covered that battlefield while parades celebrating the veterans, some with missing limbs and scars marched to the
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