Manitoba Childe Roland

Original Text: 
Carl Sandburg, Cornhuskers (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1918), pp. 38-39. PS 3537 A618C6 1918 Robarts Library.
1LAST night a January wind was ripping at the shingles
2      over our house and whistling a wolf song under the
3      eaves.
5      the Browning poem, Childe Roland to the Dark
6      Tower Came.
7And her eyes had the haze of autumn hills and it was
8      beautiful to her and she could not understand.
9A man is crossing a big prairie, says the poem, and
10      nothing happens--and he goes on and on--and it's
11      all lonesome and empty and nobody home.
12And he goes on and on--and nothing happens--and he
13      comes on a horse's skull, dry bones of a dead horse--
14      and you know more than ever it's all lonesome and
15      empty and nobody home.
16And the man raises a horn to his lips and blows--he
17      fixes a proud neck and forehead toward the empty
18      sky and the empty land--and blows one last wonder-
19      cry.
21      off its results willy-nilly and inevitable as the snick
22      of a mouse-trap or the trajectory of a 42-centimetre
23      projectile,
25      of Manitoba and Minnesota--in the sled derby run
26      from Winnipeg to Minneapolis.
27He is beaten in the race the first day out of Winnipeg--
28      the lead dog is eaten by four team mates--and the
29      man goes on and on--running while the other racers
30      ride, running while the other racers sleep--
31Lost in a blizzard twenty-four hours, repeating a circle
32      of travel hour after hour--fighting the dogs who
33      dig holes in the snow and whimper for sleep--
34      pushing on--running and walking five hundred
35      miles to the end of the race--almost a winner--one
36      toe frozen, feet blistered and frost-bitten.
37And I know why a thousand young men of the North-
38      west meet him in the finishing miles and yell cheers
39      --I know why judges of the race call him a winner
40      and give him a special prize even though he is a
41      loser.
42I know he kept under his shirt and around his thudding
43      heart amid the blizzards of five hundred miles that
44      one last wonder-cry of Childe Roland--and I told
45      the six year old girl about it.
46And while the January wind was ripping at the shingles
47      and whistling a wolf song under the eaves, her eyes
48      had the haze of autumn hills and it was beautiful
49      to her and she could not understand.

Notes

20] snick: click (onomatopoeic). Back to Line
24] sled derby: dog-sled race. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1918
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Form: