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Carl Sandburg Poem Asks Your Interpretation About The Sea Chest

Updated on January 30, 2016
Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg, Beverly Hills, 1962  Photo credit: Arnold Newman.
Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg, Beverly Hills, 1962 Photo credit: Arnold Newman. | Source

Sea Chest

There was a woman loved a man

as the man loved the sea.

Her thoughts of him were the same

as his thoughts of the sea.

They made an old sea chest for their belongings


Carl Sandburg

Two time Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carl Sandburg wrote over 40 books. Widely acclaimed for his award winning poetry, he lived in the state of North Carolina and died on July 22, 1967.

I happened to pick up an anthology and flipped open a page. As I started to read a few short poems, I began to wonder what he was saying and whether some symbolism escaped me. I'm asking for your interpretations, meaning and guidance with the Sea Chest poem written above.

The poem "Sea Chest" might mean our own chest, our ribs that hold our heart, that could appear as deep and wide as the sea. The characters in the short story include a woman and a man who appear both to be deeply in love.

The woman loves the man, but the man loves the sea. Is this a love triangle?

She thinks of him, and he thinks of the sea.

The words contained in the last sentence puzzle me the most, because I'm sure Sandburg makes some special point or conclusion about this relationship. I just don't know what without your help.

The couple appear to be working together on this project to make "an old" sea chest in which to put their things. If it is important how the lines break, then they do this "together." Does this mean their hearts or their material goods go into this 'chest' as they now have become old?

My glimpse of understanding, or perhaps personal interpretation, tells me this talks of the end of life. Why? I don't know, because death, itself, is not mentioned. And, I'm trying to understand the distance between them that she loves him, but not mentioned is whether he loves her in return.

What was it in the sea that this man loved so dearly? Was he a sea captain or a fisherman like Hemingway's main character in "The Old Man and The Sea?" We only know that as much as a woman can love a man, so can a man love the sea. Does this represent exploration, adventure, independence, not to be tied down to this woman?

What he thinks about the sea remains a mystery. And so, do we know what this woman thinks of him?

Another thought on this 'sea chest' that came to mind just now, that a chest may imply a treasure chest filled with gold coins and valuable items. What items of value did they put into that chest?

If anyone has any thoughts, ideas and commentary about this six line poem, please chime in below.

Oh! One other thing, it feels at the start like a rhyme such as, "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe." That may only be my personal mental inclination of categorizing the sounds that enter my ears.

Patiently waiting for your response.

Free Verse

If anyone out there is an expert in poetic forms, please tell me where this poem falls? This poem does not rhyme, there does not seem to be any rules for the line length and variation.

connected lines
Line 2
as the man loved the sea.
Line 4
as his thoughts of the sea.
There are two alternating lines that repeat the motion and the words. How does this affect the feel and sound of this poem?

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About the Author

This Hubpages asks readers to help interpret the meaning of a short poem by Carl Sandburg. I don't know at what age he wrote this poem, nor what was going on in his life. The Sea Chest lends itself to romantic imagery, perhaps a love triangle, a fulfilled or unfulfilled relationship between a man and a woman. Help me solve this mystery.

Debby Bruck, CHOM loves to write about various topics on Hubpages. As a graphic designer she loves to create compositions with the elements of design. Debby is the founder of Homeopathy World Community a social network of professional homeopaths enlightening the world to the healing powers of energy medicines. She hosts numerous radio shows each week on a variety of health topics. Debby believes that homeopathy is the wave of the future that provides hope and healing to those who have tried every other approach. Follow Debby on Twitter


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    • Debby Bruck profile imageAUTHOR

      Debby Bruck 

      7 years ago

      Hello GoldenBird ~ As you know, even though an author has certain personal ideas in mind when writing symbolic poetry, the readers always will have their own interpretations. Very nicely spoken. Blessings, Debby

    • GoldenBird profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Debby,

      I think I can help here, I was looking for an assignment. The poem is beautiful. I feel, both the lovers looked each other as seas- seas of support, of compassion, of love, of help, of blessings and everything positive.

      Their hearts joined, like two seas joined; and they tried to make a life from that depth, surviving grief and impoverishment.

      This is the way I see this poem.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      7 years ago from Reno NV

      This is an incredible hub that analyzes a poem from an American poet who helped to shape the world of American poetry. This is a hub I will visit often, Thank You. Jamie


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