A Revolver

day-gunBill Day

A dig through the archives of the University of Illinois has uncovered an unpublished poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Carl Sandburg.

Ernie Gullerud, a former professor of social work at the university, came upon a previously unpublished poem by Carl Sandburg titled “A Revolver,” which addresses the issue of guns and violence.

Gullerud has volunteered at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library every Thursday for more than seven years. For the past two years, he’s been working to classify and enter a file folder of poems into the school’s electronic system.

He was working through poems by Sandburg this month when he came across “A Revolver” typed on scratch paper and recognized its relevance to current cultural debates across the country.

A timely find.

A Revolver

Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.
When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.
And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.


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5 thoughts on “A Revolver

  1. I try to see myself with a gun in my hand and although I pulled the trigger to kill someone who wanted to hurt my family,I still have this dread that I killed this monster. I may be soothed that I did my duty but I struggle about living with it.

    Weapons go back to Cain and Abel and they will remain with us because of human beings who seek to do harm. I pray that President Obama can sit down with Harry Reid ( gun lover) and get him to legislate his gun control law or get out of the way and nominate another speaker.

  2. Powerful words! Thanks for posting Mario.

    I’ve been thinking about the NRA’s position that more guns in schools is the answer and I can’t keep a terrifying picture out of my head. The year is 1958 and a deranged man with a gun storms into my sophomore English class. Luckily our teacher, short pudgy Miss Spurlock, reaches under her desk and whips out the fully automatic assault rifle that was issued to her by the board of education. As she begins spraying the class with hot lead most of her students take the safest route available and leap from the second story window.

    I think stricter regulation might be a better answer.

  3. What an incredible find, particularly at this moment in our history.

    And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

    Why do we allow anyone to drag God into any of these issues? Anyone who claims to know the thoughts or wishes of God needs to be treated and medicated.

  4. “It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.”

    Or any “good” guy with a gun to be right there at the exact time and place!!

    Amazing find and so relevant. Thanks for sharing! Great point, Charlie — I don’t think arming teachers is the answer for them or their students!

  5. Compare this “discovery” with genuine Sandburg poems. It looks like a pastiche, the work of someone trying to mimic Sandburg’s style, but without the poet’s skill. Sandburg used small and specific details to make his point. But consider the language of this find:

    amazing language
    unmistakable ultimatums
    terrible story
    magnificent precision

    Amazing, for example, is a word that weak writers use when they can’t come up with the right way to describe something. As a commentor at the Huffington Post noted, “less subtle and treacherous” is sloppy, since it means less subtle, but also less treacherous, and that’s not what the line is trying to say.

    Gullerud was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, “Golly, someone could have written this today.” My money’s on the idea that what he said is exactly what happened.

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