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The poem “At the Window” was written by American poet Carl Sandburg, who is renowned for his use of free poetry and depictions of ordinary life. Sandburg offers an insightful and reflective view of the human experience in this poem.
About the poet
Carl August Sandburg was an American poet, biographer, journalist, and editor who lived from January 6, 1878, until July 22, 1967. His biography of Abraham Lincoln and two of his poems each received one Pulitzer Prize. For his books of collected poems, such as Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920), Sandburg was hailed as “a major figure in contemporary literature” during his lifetime. Due to the breadth of his experiences, which connected him to so many different aspects of American culture, he had “unparalleled appeal as a poet in his day.” Carl Sandburg was more than just the voice of America, more than just the poet of its brilliance, according to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who made this observation upon his passing in 1967. “He was America.”
Give me hunger, O you gods that sit and give The world its orders. Give me hunger, pain and want, Shut me out with shame and failure From your doors of gold and fame, Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
The speaker approaches the gods, pleading for hunger, suffering, and want while highlighting a readiness to accept life’s challenges. They are drawn to the feeling of failure and shame rather than the attraction of financial prosperity and outward accomplishment. Additionally, they ask for the gods’ “shabbiest, weariest hunger,” expressing a preference for the most demanding and unpleasant type of hunger. This request implies a desire for a true and unadulterated experience of life, even if it entails going through hardships and poverty. Through the starkness of hunger and the humbling sensations of pain and want, the speaker seeks a greater knowledge of life.
But leave me a little love, A voice to speak to me in the day end, A hand to touch me in the dark room Breaking the long loneliness. In the dusk of day-shapes Blurring the sunset, One little wandering, western star Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow. Let me go to the window, Watch there the day-shapes of dusk And wait and know the coming Of a little love.
In addition to the hunger and difficulties they had before desired, the speaker expresses a wish for a small amount of love. They desire a hand to touch them in the dark room and a voice to talk to them at the end of the day, providing company and consolation. A “wandering, western star” appears in the fading light of day-shapes, symbolizing a ray of hope and direction in the midst of uncertainty and darkness. The speaker goes to the window in search of tranquility, where they may watch the shifting shapes of night and wait for a tiny bit of love to arrive. The speaker’s need for love, human connection, and friendship as a source of solace and release from life’s difficulties is mostly expressed in these lines.