Carl Sandburg





Old Timers

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.