Fog by Carl Sandburg
On of Carl Sandburg’s most famous poems is “Fog,” that first appeared in his 1916 collection Chicago Poems. It is a short poem, of only six lines, but full of depth and meaning. Sandburg claimed that he wrote the poem as an American haiku while waiting for an interview subject. In 1968, after his death, a recording of Sandburg reading “Fog” came out on LP.
The poem is quite succinct: “The fog comes/on little cat feet. It sits looking/over harbor and city/on silent haunches/and then moves on.” Sandburg’s genius in this poem is not an attempt to obscure meaning through complexity. He uses simple metaphors, comparing the fog to the movement of a cat. Sandburg often attempted to utilize a language of the people in his work, making it readily accessible to ordinary Americans.
By establishing a direct and memorable metaphor in just the first two lines, Sandburg has created one of the most lasting images in American literature. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to see fog rolling in without thinking of Sandburg’s comparison. The silence of movement conjures up the image of a stealthy cat, not hostile or menacing but mysterious and silent. Sandburg has provided one of the most compelling metaphors, not just of the fog, but also of the ways in which fog and cats move similarly. In providing this anthropomorphism, Sandburg’s “Fog” is an aesthetically pleasing and brilliant example of 20th century American verse.