Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011
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
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
I 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.
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 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.
The mob -- the crowd -- the mass will arrive then.
Carl Sandburg lived in Milwaukee from 1907 to 1912, the period when he first began to write his realist, free verse poems. He was a Socialist organizer and a newspaper reporter. From 1910 to 1912 he was secretary to Emil Seidel, Milwaukee’s first Socialist mayor.