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By Carl Sandburg


I saw a famous man eating soup.
I say he was lifting a fat broth
Into his mouth with a spoon.
His name was in the newspapers that day
Spelled out in tall black headlines
And thousands of people were talking about him.

When I saw him,
He sat bending his head over a plate
Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.

I am the People, the Mob

    I AM the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass.

    Do you know that all the great work of the world is
      done through me?

    I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
      world's food and clothes.

    I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
      come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And
      then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.

    I am the seed ground. I am a prarie that will stand
      for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me.
      I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted.
      I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and
      makes me work and give up what I have. And I

    Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
      drops for history to remember. Then--I forget.

    When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
      People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
      forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
      a fool--then where will be no speaker in all the world
      say the name: "The People," with any fleck of a
      sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
    The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arive then.


    Hog Butcher for the World,
      Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
      Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
      Stormy, husky, brawling,
      City of the Big Shoulders:

    They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
      have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
      luring the farm boys.
    And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
      is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
      kill again.
    And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
      faces of women and children I have seen the marks
      of wanton hunger.
    And having answered so I turn once more to those who
      sneer at this my city, and give them back the sneer
      and say to them:
    Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
      so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
    Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
      job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
      little soft cities;

    Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
      as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
        Building, breaking, rebuilding,
    Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
      white teeth,
    Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
      man laughs,
    Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
      never lost a battle,
    Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
      and under his ribs the heart of the people,
    Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
      Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
      Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
      Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Sandburg, Lilian S., ed. The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1970.

Some background on Sandburg.