Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: For the Union Dead
Volume: Life Studies and For the Union Dead
Year: Published/Written in 1964
Comment 10 of 10, added on June 2nd, 2010 at 3:41 PM.
nj from Chile
Comment 9 of 10, added on December 17th, 2009 at 11:38 AM.
Lowell ties in the yet unresolved issues of the Civil War with the mindless consumerism that grips the nation in his poem, “For the Union Dead”. One of Lowell’s best-known works, Union Dead is a multi-layered poem set in the heart of Boston. On the surface, it is an elegy to the heroic Massachusetts 54. The soldiers fought with valor and moral integrity while trying to preserve the Union and end slavery. A closer examination reveals a country that blindly worships Capitalism. Following consumerism alone has left the country directionless. Lowell watches the steam shovels at work and comments that avarice is literally and figuratively shaking the Massachusetts Statehouse, “Parking spaces luxuriate like civic sandpiles in the heart of Boston. A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders braces the tingling Statehouse.” Lowell is nostalgic for the Boston of his youth and for a country, real or imagined, whose moral integrity was intact. Lowell is raising an objection to a country that commodifies the nuclear age, he objects to the new realism; he objects to the triumph of commercialism over morality, he objects to a country that has forsaken spirituality for physicality: “On Boylston Street a commercial photograph shows Hiroshima boiling over a Mosler safe, the “Rock of Ages” that survived the blast. Space is nearer.” The space that Lowell speaks of is just that- Nothingness. Extinction of the human race will be the cost if we cannot move to higher moral ground.
Rob from United States
Comment 8 of 10, added on January 13th, 2009 at 12:31 AM.
Lowell wasn't trying to write a sentimental glorification of war, but to comment on how a consumerist America thought parking lots more important. What's "mediocre" isn't the poem, it's the people who in savage servility slide by on grease.
Edward G. Nilges
from United States
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