Always the Young Strangers by Carl Sandburg

By Carl Sandburg

Born in 1878, Carl Sandburg grew with the USA. As a boy he performed, studied, and matured in Galesburg, Illinois. Sandburg's memory provides a nostalgic view of small-town lifestyles and a useful viewpoint on American heritage. Index.

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He is just in his regard for strangers, a strong tower of defence for Acragas, the crowning glory of a famous family line, a man who guides his city on a straight path. His forebears laboured hard* in their hearts and so won a holy habitation beside the river. They were the envy of Sicily, and as time sped them on its destined road it added wealth and popular favour to crown their inborn talents.  Son of Cronus and Rhea,* you who rule over your home on Olympus, and over this greatest of games and Alpheus’ stream; be warmed by my songs and in your kindness preserve their native land for generations to come.

But I must rouse my memory, and tell of the supreme achievement of hands which brought victory to the Blepsiad clan,* the sixth crown to adorn them, given at the games where men win garlands; even the dead have a share in duly enacted rites, and the dust does not hide from them their kinsmen’s prized success. Hearing from Hermes’ daughter, the goddess of good news, Iphion will tell his uncle Callimachus* of the glittering distinction Zeus has granted their family at Olympia. May Zeus be glad to heap glory upon glory for them, and shield them from painful disease.

But praise can soon turn out to be excessive if it is not attended by impartiality, but comes from the mouths of the disaffected, who seek with idle chatter to obscure good men’s noble deeds. As surely as grains of sand are beyond counting, who could say how many acts of kindness this man has performed for other men? * Pisa too instructs me to speak out: for from there come god-given songs to men, whenever the unswerving Hellene judge, an Elean of Aetolian stock,* fulfilling Heracles’ ancient orders, sets above a man’s brow the glory of the grey-green olive in his hair, which once Amphitryon’s son* brought from Istrus’* shadowed springs to be the supreme memorial of contests at Olympia.

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