For the Union Dead

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Collection of poems by Robert Lowell, published in 1964.

The last of the 35 poems of the book is the title poem, first published with a different title in the paperback edition (1960) of Life Studies. In 17 unrhymed, meterless quatrains it treats with bitter irony an example of degradation in New England as symptomatic of modern life, presenting the Boston Common dug up for an underground garage so that its monument to the noble, idealistic Colonel Shaw and his black regiment in the Civil War has to be propped up by a plank while “giant finned cars nose forward … a savage servility slides by on grease.” Other poems deal with the Puritan heritage, the threat of nuclear war, the corruption of modern society, and personal relations, of which the most intense is the double sonnet, “Night Sweat,” presenting the poet's own emotional turmoil.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Robert Lowell (1917—1977) American poet