Analysis Of The Poem "Prayer Of Steel" By Carl Sanburg

1323 words - 5 pages

Prayer of SteelCarl Sandburg(1878-1967)Lay me on an anvil, O GodBeat me and hammer me into a crowbar.Let me pry loose old walls.Let me lift and loosen old foundationsLay me on an anvil, Oh God.Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike.Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together.Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper together through blue nights into white stars.A formalist reading of the poem"Prayer of Steel" is a short poem composed of 9 lines, the ninth being the longest. The cohesive devices in the poem will be analyzed on three levels: lexical, grammatical, and phonological. The analysis will be made first of the individual stanzas, then of the overall structure of the whole poem. Leech's concept of cohesion will be referred to where necessary.General observationsThe title "Prayers of Steel" is an example of "foregrounding": steel is a kind of metal, thus it is inanimate and cannot perform the action of saying prayers, an action performed only by a human being. Obviously, the poet has deviated from the generally observed rulles of the language, and it is significant that these are prayers of steel, not of rubber. The inference is that whatever the speaker wishes to accomplish will require a great deal of strength and determination. From the title, "foregrounding" then extends into the poem so that we have "cohesion of foregrounding", in which the foregrounded features identified in isolation are related to one another, and to the poem as a whole, as can be observed below.Cohesion in the individual stanzasStanza 1Lexical cohesion: First we observe that among all the images used in the first stanza, there is semantic association, whereby worsd of related meanings are grouped together. "Steel"- in the title- is one of the materials indispensable in construction. Then we find types of construction tools: "anvil", "hammer", "crowbar", ;we also find a set of action verbs that are related to these tools: "lay," "beat," "hammer," "pry," "lift," "loosen"; we see "old wall" and "old foundations" that have to be removed. Consequently, there is a tie between these images, which all suggest aspects of construction. We also feel that strength and determination is required to handle thesetools and to perform these actions.Another observation is that there is lexical repetition: "old" and "let me" occur in the third and fourth lines, which adds to the feeling of strong determination suggested by the images of semantic association. Particularly, the pronoun "me" is found in all the four lines of the first stanza. This repetition is obviously deliberate and meaningful. It would be an oversimplification and a big loss to say that this repetition is just for emphasis and move to the next point. It needs digging deeper. We should thus not allow it to escape us as we will return and account for it later.Grammatical cohesion: All the four lines are parallel request forms: "Lay me" "Beat...

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