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Old Timers

by Carl Sandburg, 1918

I am an ancient reluctant conscript.

 On the soup wagons of Xerxes I was a cleaner of pans.

 On the march of Miltiades’ phalanx I had a haft and head;
 I had a bristling gleaming spear-handle.

 Red-headed Cæsar picked me for a teamster.
 He said, “Go to work, you Tuscan bastard,
 Rome calls for a man who can drive horses.”

 The units of conquest led by Charles the Twelfth,
 The whirling whimsical Napoleonic columns:
 They saw me one of the horseshoers.

 I trimmed the feet of a white horse Bonaparte swept the night stars with.

 Lincoln said, “Get into the game; your nation takes you.”
 And I drove a wagon and team and I had my arm shot off
 At Spottsylvania Court House.

 I am an ancient reluctant conscript.

Published in Cornhuskers

Any corrections or public domain poems I should have here? Email me at poems (at) this domain.