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Poetry

A Father to His Son

by Carl SandburgA father sees his son nearing manhood. What shall he tell that son? “Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.” And this might stand him for the storms and serve him for humdrum monotony and guide him among sudden betrayals and tighten him for slack moments. “Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.” And this too might serve him. Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed. The growth of a frail flower in a path up has sometimes shattered and split a rock. A tough will counts. So does desire. So does a rich soft wanting. Without rich wanting nothing arrives. Tell him too much money has killed men and left them dead years before burial: the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs has twisted good enough men sometimes into dry thwarted worms. Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted. Tell him to be a fool every so often and to have no shame over having been a fool yet learning something out of every folly hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies thus arriving at intimate understanding of a world numbering many fools. Tell him to be alone often and get at himself and above all tell himself no lies about himself whatever the white lies and protective fronts he may use against other people. Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong and the final decisions are made in silent rooms. Tell him to be different from other people if it comes natural and easy being different. Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives. Let him seek deep for where he is born natural. Then he may understand Shakespeare and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov, Michael Faraday and free imaginations Bringing changes into a world resenting change. He will be lonely enough to have time for the work he knows as his own.