"I Tell You The Past Is A Bucket Of Ashes"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In robust, broad rhythms the poet presents a panoramic view of the life of the prairie. At times the poet is speaking; at times the prairie is singing to the poet, mystically interfused with the life around it. Although the poem, made up actually of several poems, adheres to no logical structure, its continuity is achieved through the natural tempo and rhythms which, through combinations of vast descriptive passages and elevated songs, touch the pulse of the prairie world, its people, activities, and resources. Implicit in the personality of the prairie life is an account of its past and a prophecy of its future. The poet sees in the dynamics and virtues of the life around him the strength, goodness, and beauty which produce his optimism for the future and his conviction that the future is the essential concern, that the past is gone. Concerning the past and the future, he says:

I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down, a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of to-morrows,
a sky of to-morrows.