The Buried Train

The Buried Train
By Robert Bly
Robert Bly
Robert was born December 23, 1926 in Madison Minnesota
 He graduated from high school in 1944 and enlisted in the
Navy where he served for 2 years.
 He attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota for a year then
transferred to Harvard University where he graduated in
 In 1956 he traveled to Norway and
translated Norwegian poetry into English.
 Robert became determined to start a
literary magazine for poetry translation
in the United States
 The Fifties ,The Sixties ,and The Seventies
were literary magazines he made that
Introduced many foreign poets to
American readers.
Biography continued
During this time he lived Minnesota on a farm with his
 His first wife was the award winning short story author
Carol Bly with which he had four children.
 They divorced in 1979 and Robert soon married Ruth Ray in
 He has a stepdaughter and a stepson who unfortunately
died in a pedestrian-train incident while he attended private
college in Minnesota. Suicide was suspected but never
 Bly has been writing poetry
throughout his whole life and
has won many awards for
his poems.
The Buried Train by Robert Bly
Tell me about the train that people say got buried
By the avalanche--was it snow?--It was
In Colorado, and no one saw it happen.
There was smoke from the engine curling up
Lightly through fir tops, and the engine sounds.
There were all those people reading--some
From Thoreau, some from Henry Ward Beecher.
And the engineer smoking and putting his head out.
I wonder when that happened. Was it after
High School, or was it the year we were two?
We entered this narrow place, and we heard the sound
Above us--the train couldn't move fast enough.
It isn't clear what happened next. Are you and I
Still sitting there in the train, waiting for the lights
To go on? Or did the real train get really buried;
So at night a ghost train comes out and keeps going...
The Poems Speaker(s)
The poem seems to be a conversation between
two people or a person discussing something to
Speaker One
Constantly asking questions about what
Speaker One is constantly confused about the
facts including location, events, time, and
Never satisfied with the answers
Speaker Two
Experienced the same event as speaker one and
seems to know the facts.
Same age as the speaker. “was it the year we
were two?”
Elaborately answers the first question, dully
answers the second, and gives no answer to the
last question.
In some instances speaker two could be speaker
one answering his own questions.
Speakers’ Attitudes
Seem to be calm and collected throughout the
Speaker One is very confused about the
Speaker Two doesn’t seem to know all the facts
For the dramatic situation that happened the
speakers are far too somber about the tragedy.
In a way the speakers are reasoning with each
The Poem’s Organization
Four stanzas with no rhyme scheme
Stanza One- Speaker asks about the incident of
the buried train and receives a detailed answer.
Stanza Two- The answer continues in detail
emphasizing the normality of the situation.
Stanza Three- Speaker asks when the accident
occurred. The response doesn’t answer the
question but further describes the accident.
Stanza Four- Long question that goes on out of
poem receiving no answer. Shows that the
speakers do not fully understand what happened.
The Train
– Represents normality in ones life and what we
desire. The speaker had something then it was
The Avalanche
– Represents a tragedy or traumatic event that
alters one’s life. The train is buried showing
the tragedy is covered up.
– Represent false hope that the tragedy can be
reversed and the train (our desire) will work
once again.
More Imagery
Real Train
– Represents the reality of what happened and
that the traumatic event cant be reversed as
Ghost Train
– Represents the haunting of the tragedy that
reoccurs throughout the speakers life.
Diction and Syntax
Word choice to instill calmness
– The setting is in Colorado which is seen as serene and
– Fir tops- using trees in the poem calms the poem down.
– Thoreau used as an author who focused on nature and
– Passengers are reading which is a calm and quiet
– Smoke is used coming out of the train and the conductor
is smoking. Smoke seems slow and calm.
Word choice that instills confusion
“Was it snow?” speaker asks if the avalanche was snow
Smoke is hazy and obscure
Engine sounds
“I wonder” and “It isn't clear”
Constant questions and bad answers
– Continuous questions gives the poem a fluid feel
– “So at night a ghost train comes out and keeps going...”
– Last sentence doesn’t end and infers that the dialogue
keeps going.
– Adds to feel of uncertainty and no closure to problem
At first The Buried Train seems to be a simple
poem about a train accident in Colorado but it
turns into the description of how a traumatic
event has effected somebody's life.
The speaker questions what has happened to
either himself or another participant in the event.
He/She fears the aftermath and wonders
whether his life will go back to normal or whether
it will be changed forever.
He/She is haunted by the tragedy and is left
without closure.