Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950

By David Cecil; Allen Tate | Go to book overview

Carl Sandburg (Am. b. 1878)

Chicago

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 I 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,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling
, Wrecking,
Planning,
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!

-196-

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