Summary and Analysis of Lost by Carl Sandburg: 2022


Widely regarded as “a major figure in contemporary literature”, Carl Sandburg, born in 1878, was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. Sandburg himself was perhaps the first American urban folk singer, accompanying himself on solo guitar at lectures and poetry recitals. Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America. Sandburg died of natural causes in 1967 and his body was cremated.


Known for his short and straightforward poems, without much twists and turns, Carl Sandburg wrote the poem “Lost” which is about being scared and alone. It takes place by a lake, and the scene setting is like a scene from a scary movie. Reading this poem one felt like the author was depressed because it says “desolate and lone.” Also it mentions tears and trouble. Not diminishing one’s interest, the short and crisp poem is full of mystery.


long on the lake (line 2)
Calls and cries  (line 5)
Like some lost   (line 6)
tears and trouble (line 7)
Hunting the harbor’s  (line 8)
whistle of a boat
harbor’s breast
harbor’s eyes.
“Lost” uses the metaphor of a child
“Like some lost child / In tears and trouble,”  to imply that both  child and boat are searching for something.
In the case of the child, he leaves it up in the air, though the boat is “Hunting the harbor’s breast / And the harbor’s eyes.”


The whole poem is written in free verse.


“Lost” takes place out on a lake, “Where fog trails and mist creeps,” throughout the course of a long and lonely night, because the poem says that the boat cannot find its harbor, the reader must assume the lake is a large one, where the shoreline is long and can be lost in the mist to boats out on the water. The poet here is narrating the poem. The subject is being alone and the title is significant to the poem because the poem is about being lost all alone in the middle of nowhere.
The blunt and simplistic tone of the poem, depicts just how childlike the boat’s thoughts are. The ominous diction of this poem creates a feeling of desperation. It’s almost as if there is no hope for the boat and that it will never be found. Language as used by the poet, “Hunting the harbor’s breast and the harbor’s eyes.” is trying to convey  that a lighthouse is the harbors eyes. Harbor imagery is used here to evoke the emotion of loneliness. Although short, yet full of emotions and feelings.


The tone of the poem “Lost” is sad because he is lost with no one to help him. Carl Sandburg, in this poem uses the metaphors of a drifting boat and a lost child to convey the emotions of sadness, isolation and loneliness. Sandburg spent much of his life in Chicago, so it is reasonable to assume that the lake he refers to is Lake Michigan, a huge lake more akin to an inland sea.
An initial reading of the poem immediately generates feelings of sadness and pity, especially for the lost child to whom Sandburg compares the boat.


Carl Sandburg’s poem seems to specifically address feelings of loneliness and a search for safety and meaning in life. While the simple story of being lost on the lake trying to seek shore is there, beneath lies a lot of potential interpretations, all of which are just that. The poem revolves around raw emotions, almost at a breaking point trying to find safety, a way. The lake, is acting as a mirror to one’s inner feelings of sadness and despair.The poem forces the reader to read the poem with a mindset as if his life is penned down.


This is a short poem, but has a lot of meaning to it. “Lost’ seems to be a true reflection of life. The poem expresses how one feels when they are lonely. It creates an atmosphere of the sad and despairing tone by creating an alienated individual on a lake. The straightforward poem is filled to brim with emotions and feelings of desperation and sadness thus making the reader question his own life.
Contributor: Manasvi Gupta

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