Carl Sandburg

To Beachey, 1912 by Carl Sandburg

‘To Beachey, 1912‘ by Carl Sandburg is a poem that expresses the author’s appreciation for aviation. The main character of the poem is flying in an airplane, and from high up, he is able to really appreciate the beauty of the blue sky.

Carl Sandburg’s ‘To Beachey, 1912‘ is an expression of appreciation for the skies and air travel. The main character of the poem is flying in his airplane, and he is moved by the beautiful scenery. The title of the poem ‘To Beachey, 1912‘ is a reference to Lincoln Beachey, a famous aviator. The poem is meant to express the author’s appreciation for the accomplishments of this pilot and the fascinating world of aviation. The poem also expresses the author’s hope that the pilot will be able to continue to fly safely.

To Beachey, 1912 by Carl Sandburg


To Beachey, 1912‘ is a poem about the thrill of aviation and flight. The poem expresses a sense of awe and wonders at the amazing feat that the pilot has accomplished.

The poem begins with the narrator describing a man who is flying in an airplane. The man feels calm and content, as he gracefully glides through the air. The poem then states that the man holds a deep love of the sky in his heart. The pilot is at ease, and he confidently navigates the plane through the wide blue sky. The poem ends with the narrator hoping that the plane will keep the pilot safe high up in the sky.

Structure and Form

To Beachey, 1912‘ is broken into two stanzas. Both stanzas are 8 lines long, making the entire poem 16 lines long. The poem is written in free verse, meaning it does not have a set rhyming scheme or meter. This style is very common in Carl Sandburg’s poetry, as he mainly wrote free verse. The poem utilizes a lot of symbolism and metaphor in order to convey meaning to the reader. One such example is when the narrator refers to the pilot as a “man bird”, which is a metaphor for an airplane.


The poem mainly focuses on appreciating the beauty and wonder of flight. The main character of the poem feels totally at peace flying in his plane in the bright blue sky. The poem encourages the reader to experience the same feeling of wonder that the main character feels flying through the sky.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-4

Riding against the east,

A veering, steady shadow

Purrs the motor-call

Of the man-bird

In the first few lines of the poem, the narrator sets the scene depicted in the poem. A pilot is gracefully flying through the air in his airplane. A “man-bird” is a metaphor for an airplane, and the “veering, steady shadow” refers to the shadow of the plane over the landscape. The narrator uses the word “purr” to describe the sound of the motor of the airplane, which evokes the image of a relaxing and calm flight.

Lines 5-8

Ready with the death-laughter

In his throat

And in his heart always

The love of the big blue beyond.

In the next few lines of ‘To Beachey, 1912‘ the narrator states that the pilot holds a love for the “big blue beyond” in his heart. This “big blue beyond” refers to the sky, as the main character is a pilot who is passionate about aviation. The poem states that he is “ready with the death laughter” in his throat to convey that he knows that he may die at any moment. This is because aviation can be very dangerous.

Lines 9-14

Only a man,

A far fleck of shadow on the east

Sitting at ease

With his hands on a wheel

And around him the large gray wings.

Hold him, great soft wings,

The second, and last, stanza of the poem begins with the narrator characterizing the pilot as a “fleck of shadow” and “only a man”, which makes him seem very small in comparison to the scope of the blue sky surrounding him. This further emphasizes the amazing feat that the pilot is taking part in. A man, who is no more than a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, has conquered the skies and taken flight. 

The narrator then goes on to state that the pilot is sitting at ease at the steering wheel, which demonstrates his confidence and prowess as a pilot. He is held up by the grey wings of the airplane, and the narrator pleads for the wings to continue to safely hold him up. This demonstrates that the narrator recognizes the potential danger of flying. While the pilot feels comfortable, he is still engaging in a potentially life-threatening activity.

Lines 15-16

Keep and deal kindly, O wings,

With the cool, calm shadow at the wheel.

To Beachey, 1912‘ ends with the narrator once again asking the plane to be gentle with the pilot. The “cool calm shadow at the wheel” refers to the pilot himself, as he is casting a shadow over the wheel as he flies. The narrator pleads to “keep and deal kindly, O wings”, which sounds almost like a prayer. This is because the pilot’s life is dependent on the plane continuing to work. However, the pilot remains comfortable and calm despite the fact that the narrator feels worried for him. This demonstrates the pilot’s confidence and faith in his abilities, which the narrator admires.

About Carl Sandburg

Winner of 3 Pulitzer prizes, Carl Sandburg was a well renowned American poet. He is best known for his poetry collections “Chicago Poems” and “The People, Yes”. He also wrote a detailed account of Abraham Lincoln’s life “Abraham Lincoln: The war years”, which is considered one of the most monumental works of the century. Carl Sandburg was known for writing in free verse, though he did also utilize rhyme on occasion. His poetry remains beloved by people around the world even today.

Similar Poetry

If you liked Carl Sandburg’s ‘To Beachey, 1912‘ by Carl Sandburg, you may also like this similar poetry: 

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Christina Marando Poetry Expert
Christina studied a degree in English Literature with a Minor in Professional Writing at Concordia in Canada. She is deeply passionate about the world of literature, with a particular affinity for poetry.
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