by Carl Sandburg
Summary and Critical Analysis
When the little girl saw the troop marching, she asked the speaker what they were. H e replied that they were soldiers. Then she asked what soldiers are for. He replied that they are for war and that they fight and try to kill as many of the other side as they can. Then the girl remained silent and thought seriously. After a while she said that she knew something. She thought that one day when the soldiers fought nobody would come back. ‘The Little Girl Saw Her First Troop Parade’ is a short prose poem shows the bitter reality of war through the innocent perspective of a young girl.
A little girl sees a group of soldiers in a parade, for the first time in her life. She asks the speaker who they are. She gets the reply that they are soldiers. Her next question is who soldiers are. The speaker again replies that the soldiers are meant for war. They fight and try to kill as many soldiers as possible of the other side. When the little girl gets this reply she is silent and thinks for a while. Then she says that she has come to know something.When she is asked what it is, then she replies that “Sometime they will give a war and nobody will come.”
The history of the world is full of war in which millions of people have lost their lives. War is always evil and destructive. It affects not only those who are fighting but also numerous innocent people who have nothing to gain from the war. In spite of all these bitter realities, people are still fighting and killing each other. The present poem begins as a casual conversation between a little girl and a grown up man, but in the last line the girl presents such an insight (wisdom) that even the grownups rarely thinks about. The little girl says that there will (might) be a day when people will give a war but no one will come to fight. This line may be signaling towards that terrible war which will lead to the ultimate annihilation of the human race form the earth. Therefore, when there will be a war nobody will comes because those who have gone to war will never return, and there will be no one left anymore.
The poem may be taken as a bitter satire for the nations that are competing to accumulate (collect) as many nuclear weapons as possible. This context in the preparation of war, when a large mass of people are living in hunger seems to be futile even for an innocent girl but this is something that the so called intellectual and leaders have failed to understand. When Sandburg presents this insight (wisdom) for the perspective of a little the message becomes even more poignant.
‘The Little Girl Saw Her First Troop Parade’ is a prose poem which unfolds (open) dramatically in the form of a dialogue. But there are certain special characteristics that distinguish it from ordinary poem. The poetic elements like alliteration and assonance can be found in abundance and each line of the poem has a rhythmic quality. The success of the poem also lies in its capacity of giving each a starting (shocking) message with the use of very few words in the form of a causal talk. Like William Wordsworth Sandburg in this poem has used the language of everyday speech.
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