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Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

I am the People, the Mob


              1I AM the people -- the mob--the crowd--the mass.
              2Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
              3I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the
     world's food and clothes.
              4I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons
     come from me and the Lincolns.
              5I am the seed ground. I am a prairie 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
     forget.
              6Sometimes I grows, shake myself and spatter a few red
     drops for history to remember. Then--I forget.
              7When 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 there 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.
              8The mob--the crowd--the mass--will arrive then.

Notes

4] Napoleons: Napoleon (Bonaparte) I, emperor of the French (1769-1821), his son Napoleon II (1811-32), and (Louis) Napoleon III(1808-73).
Lincolns: Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), American general in the revolutionary army; Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), 16th President of the United States.

7] fleck: bit


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916), p. 172. PS 3537 A618C5 1916 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1916
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/7

Form: Free Verse


Other poems by Carl Sandburg