Verse > Carl Sandburg > Cornhuskers
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Carl Sandburg (1878–1967).  Cornhuskers.  1918.
 
94. Old Timers
 
 
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.        5
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.        10
 
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.        15
 

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