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Carl Sandburg - The Liars

(March, 1919)A LIAR goes in fine clothes.
A liar goes in rags.
A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes.
A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells and dies in a life of lies.
And the stonecutters earn a living—with lies—on the tombs of liars.
  
Aliar looks ’em in the eye
And lies to a woman,
Lies to a man, a pal, a child, a fool.
And he is an old liar; we know him many years back.
  
  A liar lies to nations.
  A liar lies to the people.
A liar takes the blood of the people
And drinks this blood with a laugh and a lie,
  A laugh in his neck,
  A lie in his mouth.
And this liar is an old one; we know him many years.
  He is straight as a dog’s hind leg.
  He is straight as a corkscrew.
He is white as a black cat’s foot at midnight.
  
The tongue of a man is tied on this,
On the liar who lies to nations,
The liar who lies to the people.
The tongue of a man is tied on this
And ends: To hell with ’em all.
  To hell with ’em all.
  
It’s a song hard as a riveter’s hammer,
  Hard as the sleep of a crummy hobo,
  Hard as the sleep of a lousy doughboy,
Twisted as a shell-shock idiot’s gibber.
  
The liars met where the doors were locked.
They said to each other: Now for war.
The liars fixed it and told ’em: Go.
  
Across their tables they fixed it up,
Behind their doors away from the mob.
And the guns did a job that nicked off millions.
The guns blew seven million off the map,
The guns sent seven million west.
Seven million shoving up the daisies.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
  The liars who lie to nations.
  
  And now
  Out of the butcher’s job
  And the boneyard junk the maggots have cleaned,
  Where the jaws of skulls tell the jokes of war ghosts,
Out of this they are calling now: Let’s go back where we were.
    Let us run the world again, us, us.
  
Where the doors are locked the liars say: Wait and we’ll cash in again.
  
So I hear The People talk.
I hear them tell each other:
  Let the strong men be ready.
  Let the strong men watch.
  Let your wrists be cool and your head clear.
  Let the liars get their finish,
  The liars and their waiting game, waiting a day again
  To open the doors and tell us: War! get out to your war again.
  
So I hear The People tell each other:
  Look at to-day and to-morrow.
  Fix this clock that nicks off millions
  When The Liars say it’s time.
  Take things in your own hands.
    To hell with ’em all,
  The liars who lie to nations,
  The liars who lie to The People.

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Added: Feb 4 2004 | Viewed: 19446 times | Comments and analysis of The Liars by Carl Sandburg Comments (2)

The Liars - Comments and Information

Poet: Carl Sandburg
Poem: 11. The Liars
Volume: Smoke and Steel
- IV. Playthings of the Wind
Year: Published/Written in 1922

Comment 2 of 2, added on November 11th, 2009 at 11:37 AM.

A few years in the middle of Bush's Wars, I found this wonderful Sandburg poem that tells it all about war. I sent comments and excerpts of the poem to various newspapers, but couldn't get a single comment published. I guess this fits with the poem. Alas, now we have Obama, who I had great hopes for, and the warmongers, arms magnates, Wall Street and the insurance companies have completely distorted his reform efforts and attempts to end the Middle East wars. Have guts, Obama, and confront these liars and antidemocratic forces.

Richard Ginnold from United States
Comment 1 of 2, added on December 13th, 2006 at 12:11 PM.

I am an old guy who just moved from Oregon to the highlands of Chiapas in San Cristobal. A breath of fresh air. The poem Liars to me says everything about current US foreign policy and many other aspects of our national life. Power and wealth corrupt, in the end, absolutely.
Since 2002 I have been writing e-mails and letters to the editor against the Iraqi War and few got through.
I sent shorter excerpts of Liars and none got published.

Now the poem is more apropo than ever, now that the public has finally turned against the war, has the scales off their eyes, and Bush and other leaders continue to lie, deceive and defy the popular will.

Richard Ginnold from Mexico

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