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Sandburg - Chicago Poems
Carl Sandburg was virtually unknown
to the literary world when, in 1914, a group of his poems appeared in the
nationally circulated Poetry magazine. Two years later his book
Chicago Poems was published, and the thirty-eight-year-old author found himself on the brink of a career that would
bring him international acclaim.
Carl Sandburg worked from
the time he was a young boy. He quit school following his graduation
from eighth grade in 1891 and spent a decade working a variety of jobs.
He delivered milk, harvested ice, laid bricks, threshed wheat in Kansas,
and shined shoes in Galesburg's Union Hotel before traveling as a hobo
Sandburg's experiences working and traveling greatly influenced his
writing and political views. He saw first-hand the sharp contrast
between rich and poor, a dichotomy that instilled in him a distrust of
THE Government--I heard about the
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
it when I saw it.
Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to
the callaboose. It was the Government in action.
I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
this was the Government, doing things.
I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of
workingmen who were trying to get other workingmen
to stay away from a shop where there was a strike
on. Government in action.
Everywhere I saw that Government is a
thing made of
men, that Government has blood and bones, it is
many mouths whispering into many ears, sending
telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying
"yes" and "no."
Government dies as the men who form
it die and are laid
away in their graves and the new Government that
comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood,
ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all,
money paid and money taken, and money covered
up and spoken of with hushed voices.
A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
traditions and corpuscles handed down from
fathers and mothers away back.