Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Revolver

A newly discovered poem by Carl Sandburg on the power of a gun.

Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.
When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme
   court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of
   execution come in and interfere with the original purpose.
And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the
   old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the
   most revolvers.

— Carl Sandburg

In between ceremonies and historic anniversaries marking President Abraham Lincoln's famous address in Gettysburg and President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas we pause to look at the instrument of their demise — a revolver. Poetically.

Specifically, Carl Sandburg's (1878-1967) A Revolver. Discovered earlier in 2013 by Ernie Gullerud — a retired professor — while poring through Sandburg's papers at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Could it be that Sandburg's blunt, A Revolver was inspired by the assassination of Lincoln?

As a small boy Sandburg had spoken with people who knew Lincoln. His fascination with Lincoln continued into adulthood and in 1926 he published the two volume, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Sandburg would later win one of his three Pulitzer Prizes for his four volume, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years published in 1939.

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