‘merican Mystic: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

[A simple definition of a mystic is one who seeks to experience God or the Transcendent.  Many of the greatest mystics have shared some of those experiences through poetry.  This is one a series of posts to share a spiritual poem and several quotations that have to do with some of the great themes of mystical writers and saints.  Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost are just two of what I call ‘merican Mystics.  In this poem, Sandburg speaks of the importance of loneliness or what the mystics would call “solitude.”  Your suggestions about other ‘merican Mystics are most welcome.]

Learn to Live in Loneliness

A man must get away
now and then
to experience loneliness.

Only those who learn how to live
in loneliness
can come to know themselves
and life.

I go out there and walk
and look at the trees and sky.
I listen to the sounds of loneliness.
I sit on a rock or stump
and say to myself,

“Who are you, Sandburg?
Where have you been,
and where are you going?”


Time is the coin of your life.
It is the only coin you have, and
only you can determine how it will be spent.
Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

Nearly all the best things that came to me in life
have been unexpected, unplanned by me

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar,
and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

A man may be born,
but in order to be born he must first die,
and in order to die he must first awake.

Our lives are like a candle in the wind.

A baby is God’s opinion that life should go on.

[PHOTO by Al Ravenna. Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.  via Wikimedia Commons]



About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Quotations, Songs and Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ‘merican Mystic: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

  1. Teresa Hamilton says:

    I really like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As a young boy I avidly read all of Sandburg’s poems and credit him as one of major poets who influenced my own writing and my own desire to write. He was a poet brilliant in his simplicity, one who, without being didactic, taught many generations how to properly live the American life.

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