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By Delmore Schwartz

Jeremiah Dickson was a true-blue American,

For he was a little boy who understood America, for he felt that he must

Think about everything; because that’s all there is to think about,   

Knowing immediately the intimacy of truth and comedy,   

Knowing intuitively how a sense of humor was a necessity   

For one and for all who live in America. Thus, natively, and   

Naturally when on an April Sunday in an ice cream parlor Jeremiah   

Was requested to choose between a chocolate sundae and a banana split

He answered unhesitatingly, having no need to think of it

Being a true-blue American, determined to continue as he began:   

Rejecting the either-or of Kierkegaard, and many another European;   

Refusing to accept alternatives, refusing to believe the choice of between;

Rejecting selection; denying dilemma; electing absolute affirmation: knowing

         in his breast

                  The infinite and the gold

                  Of the endless frontier, the deathless West.


“Both: I will have them both!” declared this true-blue American   

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on an April Sunday, instructed

         By the great department stores, by the Five-and-Ten,

Taught by Christmas, by the circus, by the vulgarity and grandeur of

         Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon,

Tutored by the grandeur, vulgarity, and infinite appetite gratified and   

         Shining in the darkness, of the light

On Saturdays at the double bills of the moon pictures,

The consummation of the advertisements of the imagination of the light

Which is as it was—the infinite belief in infinite hope—of Columbus,   

         Barnum, Edison, and Jeremiah Dickson.


Delmore Schwartz, “The True-Blue American” from Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge. Copyright © 1967 by Delmore Schwartz. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1967)

Poet Bio

Born in Brooklyn to Romanian Jewish parents, Delmore Schwartz is a tragic figure—a gifted writer who only fitfully fulfilled his potential before an early death. After the remarkable accomplishment of his first autobiographical poems and stories, which poignantly describe the sensations of childhood and the conflicted aspirations of the intellectual children of immigrants, he lived chaotically and pursued an eccentric career. Schwartz’s decline into paranoia and his lonely demise in a Times Square hotel were fictionalized by his friend Saul Bellow in Humboldt’s Gift (1975), and several of John Berryman’s Dream Songs elegize him.

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