"I Am The Grass; I Cover All"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "Grass" demonstrates Sandburg's ability to write delicate, restrained poetry. Written from the viewpoint of the grass, it treats with cold irony the futility of war and human destruction. Its reference to nature as an equalizing, leveling force which effects its own status quo presents a theme, used with variation, frequently found in Sandburg's works. The grass, mindful of its role and natural responsibility to "cover all," cynically calls for mass destruction on the battlefield in order that it might do its duty. "Pile the bodies high. . . ./ Shovel them under and let me work," it says. It names a number of famous battlegrounds which serve as recommendations for its work. Once the work of the grass is complete, people no longer recognize these fields upon which the dead have lain. "Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:/ What place is this?/ Where are we now?" The tragic element in the poem is the assumption of the grass, basically of Mother Nature, who should know the truth, that humanity can forget as easily as nature can erase. The poem begins:

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.