This poem has been sitting among my drafts for ages; I've been waiting for a reason to post it. I don't really have one now, except that it's a fine poem and deserves an airing, with or without a pretext.
Carl Sandburg, I've learned, grew up poor, the American child of Swedish immigrants. He left school at thirteen and became a drifter, then a soldier. He eventually made his way to college, where an encouraging teacher drew out his poetic gift. He went on to publish six books and eleven poetry collections, and to win three Pulitzers. He wrote books about Abraham Lincoln, and about the photographer Edward Steichen, who was his brother-in-law. He also played the banjo.
This poem, “The Young Sea,” is 99 years old. Here the sea, earth's most ancient thing, is recast as young and restless - stormy as youth, and yet the progenitor of stars.
The sea is never still.
It pounds on the shoreRestless as a young heart,Hunting.
The sea speaksAnd only the stormy heartsKnow what it says:It is the face
of a rough mother speaking.
The sea is young.One storm cleans all the hoarAnd loosens the age of it.I hear it laughing, reckless.
They love the sea,Men who ride on itAnd know they will dieUnder the salt of it
Let only the young come,Says the sea.Let them kiss my faceAnd hear me.I am the last wordAnd I tellWhere storms and stars come from.