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by Carl Sandburg, 1916

There are no handles upon a language
 Whereby men take hold of it
 And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
 It is a river, this language,
 Once in a thousand years
 Breaking a new course
 Changing its way to the ocean.
 It is mountain effluvia
 Moving to valleys
 And from nation to nation
 Crossing borders and mixing.
 Languages die like rivers.
 Words wrapped round your tongue today
 And broken to shape of thought
 Between your teeth and lips speaking
 Now and today
 Shall be faded hieroglyphics
 Ten thousand years from now.
 Sing—and singing—remember
 Your song dies and changes
 And is not here to-morrow
 Any more than the wind
 Blowing ten thousand years ago.

Published in Chicago Poems

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