Old Timers


A poem of Carl Sandburg I have always admired.  It reminds us that in the grand sweep of History almost all of us are destined to be spear carriers, but even spear carriers can appreciate the view afforded them of the passing scene:


I am an ancient reluctant conscript.

On the soup wagons of Xerxes I was a cleaner of pans.
On the march of Miltiades’ phalanx I had a haft and head;
I had a bristling gleaming spear-handle.

Red-headed Cæsar picked me for a teamster.
He said, “Go to work, you Tuscan bastard,
Rome calls for a man who can drive horses.”

The units of conquest led by Charles the Twelfth,
The whirling whimsical Napoleonic columns:
They saw me one of the horseshoers.

I trimmed the feet of a white horse Bonaparte swept the night stars with.

Lincoln said, “Get into the game; your nation takes you.”
And I drove a wagon and team and I had my arm shot off
At Spottsylvania Court House.

I am an ancient reluctant conscript.

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  1. Good poem. On the submarine I was always told, “You might be a reactor operator, but all you do is push the weapons platform around so that the Torpedo Men, Sonar Men and Fire Control Techs can do their job in killing the enemy.” Just a spear carrier, and not very much above the lowly cook in the mess galley who was always more beloved because he fed us all.

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